By Jenn Watt
Published May 29 2018
A few weeks ago my partner Steve and I had the opportunity to see a speaker at the Rene M. Caisse Memorial Theatre in Bracebridge. Having never been to that space before I simply set my GPS for the location and hit “directions.” I didn’t think much of it.
When we got there we realized it wasn’t a theatre we were h eaded to but a complex that included a high school and a pool (along with a number of other incredible amenities). In fact it was the pool that everyone in Haliburton talks about. It was the pool that draws crowds of people out of the county and into Bracebridge for swimming lessons and recreation opportunities.
For those who haven’t been the Community Complex is airy and bright. There is a coffee shop and a staffed information desk. Children scamper happily up and down the corridors with towels billowing behind them like superhero capes.
The pool debate has been raging for decades in this county. The biggest argument against it is that we just can’t afford a big facility like what Bracebridge has. That we might be able to fundraise for the space or score a few government grants to do the capital build but the population could never support the cost of the facility.
For years I’ve agreed with this. There are limits to what we can afford. We are a small place.
But then I started to meet people who love the pool. Seniors who swim to keep fit in a way that is low-impact and safe. Young parents whose children are filled with joy when they jump in the water. People with disabilities who greatly benefit from water-based exercise.
And I’ve seen another kind of need.
Our county is lacking young adults. Not just teenagers who are moving away after high school graduation to find jobs or to go to college or university but people in their 20s and 30s choosing not to come back.
There are fewer young people in our schools on our sports teams staffing the restaurants in town. The high school today has nearly 300 fewer students than it had in 2005.
This week we have a story in the Echo about how the Haliburton hospital is struggling to find emergency department doctors. Efforts at recruitment which have been extensive have not yielded enough interest to avoid a near-crisis situation.
About three months ago a group of business people in Highlands East released a report that revealed a gap in skilled labour hindering their ability to thrive and grow with the workers they need.
The Chamber of Commerce is creating a video aimed specifically at attracting young adults to the Highlands to set up shop after analyzing the demographics that lean predictably to the senior side of the spectrum.
One thing that attracts young families – and young professionals – to a place is giving them something to do with their kids parents and grandparents.
The Haliburton Highlands is incredible in what it offers: amazing music festivals restaurants natural environment outdoor sports and warm community.
But it’s hard to compete with a facility like Bracebridge’s Community Complex.
The good news is that this kind of project is not beyond our grasp.
Collaborations between groups can yield incredible things. Just look at the progress on the youth wellness hub or the new skate park. These initiatives came from partnership between groups working toward a common goal.
This is a municipal election year. The time is right to put the pool back on the agenda.