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The Cons, Winnipeg's New Splash Pads

I never had the chance to be ungrateful, the new splash pad at Kildare and Wabasha isn't a splash pad at all.  It was taken away from us and replaced with an "aquatic park", a little bit of wordsmithing designed to gloss over the fact that an open piece of our community has been replaced with yet another closed gate.

As I write this post now, I can hear it already: "Taken away, what?! It's a new water park, you're so..."
Sure, some might reach for that tired recrimination, which is why I started this blog post by dismissing such a premise.  To be fair however, I offer the response: Don't spoil this discussion with nonsense.
You see, I was grateful before the renovations happened.  The communal service on offer was adequate and I never complained about it or saw it as flawed.  Don't believe me? Here, this is a cute google-generated animation of my son enjoying the splash pad in 2014.

Weeeeeeee!
Today we took the kids to see if we could spend some time at the splash pad like we always did before the drawn-out renovations began.  Our house is right nearby, which makes this a great option to finish off any warm day.
Instead of being able to open a gate, walk in and watch my son careen into the water, we saw lineups and a closed fence around the entire facility.  That is to say: Not just around the pool area like it used to be.

What happened?

In short? Blind, desk-heavy ideology has manifested as policy once again and taken aim at a concept we perhaps don't always think about: Casual and equal access.

I'm not here to brag. Whatever fee the city wants to come up with, regardless of how much time I plan on spending at the facility, I've got it.  That said, I'm not glad to be forced to shell out for something I don't want to always have to make the focus of my day.  I bet if there was a written code for splash pads, casual access would be pretty high up there!  It's very silly, we had this figured out already and messed it up. What a ripoff, full stop.

But let's go further, because I wouldn't want to seem selfish about this. Even though I really do love getting a bucket of freezing water dumped on my head to the sound of laughter from my son on a scorching hot day.
If you street view the area around the splash pad, you will be able to see that its catchment area is a healthy mix of demographics.

I bet many of those houses have kids.
Want to know what sucks about this new aquatic center?
Most of those kids aren't going to be able to use it.

That's an even bigger failure, full stop.

What if they started charging admission here?


Stop reading and go say something, this isn't okay!

It seems increasingly, the keys to our common-good society are one by one being recalled at a frequency that matches when our city starts looking for ways to scrimp.
It's so bad that rather than reach out to my city councillor, the first thing I'm writing is this blog post.
For those of us who care enough to speak out, politicians, policy analysts and administrators will plead with canned rhetoric.  They'll ask us to help them further erode the infrastructure of our hard won Canadian social framework. A social framework that puts equality and ethics first.  Of course, it all makes sense; They're not focused on outcomes, they're focused on protecting their image.

Winnipeg and its current administration continues the tradition of civic blunders by failing to understand the heart of any matter. Pedantically applying policy inspired by a cold transaction-centric existence.
Some of this probably appeals to the currently hip notion that we should revere the march of business with never a moment to rest.  Every time I see another loss like this in the public space, I get more cause to fear the theories that inspire things like closing a splash pad. I mean, why stop here? Maybe we can start charging admission for libraries and serve alcohol. Maybe people who pay extra can jump the queue on book reservations. Close the libraries down for wedding parties. It's all in the name of good business after all.

No, of course not.  There's no justification for a race to the bottom model as that ultimately ends in a toll-society. Such designs will never take into account lack of privilege. Running society like a business is doomed to fail.
Even if I thought that was a sane thought, the new aquatic facility is nowhere near large enough to handle the capacity required of a full featured water park. The lineup was half way to Kildare along Wabasha. The powers that be at city hall can't even get their own ideology right.

Feel free to never go more than skin deep on the matter, but Winnipeg's current strategy of shutting down splash pads and replacing them with closed gates misses the whole point of why they were built in the first place.
Equality was once good enough to put on a plaque.

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