FAMILIES are standing behind Ballarat’s local neighbourhood pools while the Ballarat City Council pours millions into upgrades at the Ballarat Aquatic and Lifestyle Centre and Eureka.
The facilities might not be as flash, but as the mercury soared hundreds of residents flocked to their ‘locals’ at Black Hill, Brown Hill and Buninyong yesterday.
Chilling out at the Buninyong pool as Ballarat hit 40 degrees, Janelle Johnson said the facility was close enough for her children to walk to during the summer and was a natural community gathering point.
“There are lifeguards, it’s well run and the kids are never short of meeting a friend,” she said.
The council, which recently closed the Wendouree pool due to dwindling numbers, is currently developing a new aquatic strategy with patronage and costings for all pools to be reviewed as part of the process.
Many residents at the pools yesterday were positive about the role the facilities played in their communities.
But there was criticism that shorter opening hours and missed opportunities were putting the pools at a disadvantage.
Warrenheip’s Sue Parry and her friend Jan Willis arrived at Black Hill pool with their grandchildren and great grandchildren at 12.30pm and were surprised to find it closed until 1pm.
“My friend thought they were trying to get people all to go to Eureka,” Ms Parry said. “It’s been such a hot week. Why wouldn’t they make other arrangements?”
Another swimmer, Roger Macaulay said he couldn’t understand why the council built its new water spray park at Midlands Reserve and not adjacent to Black Hill pool, where it could have boosted patronage.
Black Hill pool manager John Oates said the hot weather caused a spike in numbers this week with up to 300 people through the gates on Monday.
The council’s general manager of infrastructure Eric Braslis said on days of extreme heat the operating hours of smaller pools was extended in the evenings as experience from previous years indicated more people used them at the end of the day.