This is one of my favourite places in Vancouver.
It’s the changing room across from the outdoor pool at Second Beach, where, after a satisfying swim, I can switch modes for running and cycling — an informal triathlon in the City-as-Gym.
It’s free, and it’s safe, and it’s not quite as amenity-free as it looks; there’s a hair dryer. But like the pool itself, it’s utilitarian and proud of it.
We should be too. Because I heard two conversations that suggest it should be otherwise.
One was from a swimmer — looked like a businessman — who, after noticing how few people were in the pool on a summer afternoon, wondered why the city should be paying so much for an expensive, under-utilized amenity. I have no doubt this operation fails to pencil out.
Another swimmer, on the other hand, bemoaned the decaying facilities that served as our change room, not to mention the downscale appeal of the concession stand itself. Surely a rich city can so much better. No doubt it could, at a price.
But the bare-bones quality of Second Beach (and the menu at the concession) is in a way a statement of our democracy: rich and poor, long-time resident and recent immigrant, the athletic and the overweight, they all get naked together in a plain room without dividers.