2009-09-04-Christie Pits.jpg

Should Late Night Swimming at Christie Pits Pool be City Sanctioned?

Pool-hopping happens every year. The weather gets hot, the civic pools close, and the young people seek the thrill of hopping fences and sneaking in for an unsanctioned cool-down.

The tragic drowning of a 16-year-old Thornhill pool-hopper last week has brought the topic back into the news. The Toronto Star wrote a piece about poolhopping on August 26th, posting an incendiary amateur video of mostly young, topless women cavorting at the Christie Pits pool after hours.

I caught up with two self-proclaimed pool-hoppers this week for their side of the story; let's call them 'Venessa' and 'Mark'. They were both at Christie Pits on the fateful night of the video; Mark even appears in the footage.

"It was around 2am on a Friday when we got to the pool," Venessa begins. "When I arrived there was a lot of people there...more than expected. At least twenty of them. Girls were taking off their tops. A few people were naked. Not all of us anticipated swimming that night, so not everyone had towels or bathing suits.

Some people had been drinking, but I wouldn't call any of it particularly unsafe. No one was being stupid, no one was being unnecessarily unruly. If you watch the video everyone is waiting in line to use to the diving board, no one is running on the deck. If that was a pool party in a private house, no one would consider anything that was going very newsworthy."

Once the police arrived at around 3am Mark and Venessa were already leaving. A week later a friend sent them a link to the Toronto Star article describing their late night dip.

"It's kind of weird seeing yourself in your underwear on a video on the internet" Mark tells me. "The video focuses on the topless girls; I wonder how they feel about being filmed. It's not like the police need it as evidence. They aren't going to identify people by their blurry faces and round them up at their houses. There's no real purpose to posting that video... other than voyeurism."

Of course, these pools are public places and there's debate as to whether the city would be held accountable if there were an accident after-hours at Christie Pits. Councillor Paula Fletcher is pushing for a 24-hour pool in the downtown core as a way of solving the problem.

"Instead of painting pool-hoppers as villains and enemies of the state, I think we should work out a compromise." Venessa tells me. "The resources we're investing on security systems and guards at these pools should be put into paying lifeguards to work late night shifts."


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