Tristan Cleveland: Why Halifax should dive into the Jump In idea
Our columnist is loving this off-the-beaten-path idea from Anika Riopel. He says it would make our city better.
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Anika Riopel is a bit nuts. She and her group, Jump In, want Halifax to build a diving platform to encourage you to swim in the harbour.
But that’s not why she’s nutty. The harbour is clean now; we should swim there. What’s crazy is that she has worked hard to push forward this proposal for no other reason than it will improve Halifax.
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing many people with this brand of insanity, who continue to volunteer despite the city making every step a hard slog.
Halifax should implement the swimming platform, not just for a place to swim, but to show our city supports people who are trying to support the city.
Riopel got the idea after seeing a diving platform in downtown Wellington, New Zealand.
“I had never been in a city where the infrastructure was inviting the public to swim,” she tells me. “I had always seen jumping off of things as against the rules. It blew my mind.”
So when she came to Halifax, she saw the opportunity.
At first she thought, like everyone, that the water wasn’t clean enough. But it turns out that for years, nearly every water quality test has been coming up green. (As in swimmable, not algae). It shouldn’t be too surprising. We spent $333 million on water treatment plants to clean the water. If we spent that much, why not use the water?
A diving platform would send the message that the water really is safe. It would also create a fun place full of people playing and jumping in the ocean.
But it would provide more than just a place to swim. The world’s best downtowns create a sensation that something fun and impressive is around every corner. To get there, we need many, diverse projects like Jump In, things that generate excitement and a buzz when added up.
And as far as cool projects go, a platform to jump off isn’t costly, especially if the Waterfront Development Corporation and Halifax split the bill.
The city will have to provide lifeguards and regular water quality testing, and that will cost something. But these are things we already provide for public beaches, so it will just be another spot on the list.
Given all that, Anika thought it wouldn’t be hard to at least try the idea out as a pilot. “It seems like such a simple idea. It’s not a foreign concept. It’s just swimming.”
But, she tells me, it was a surprise how much of a struggle it is to deal with the regulatory, insurance and bureaucratic hurdles any new idea must go through.
She didn’t accuse anyone of being obstructionist or mean-spirited. But I’ve heard a similar story many times: municipal staffers primarily see their job as to prevent the risk new ideas may bring.
Imagine how many more cool projects would enliven our streets if Halifax staff saw their job as to support their bosses—the citizens—in finding a way to make new ideas a reality.
Anika once heard it said that, “Young people are driven and naive, and it’s those two things that lets them succeed.”
Let’s become a city where you don’t have to be naive to think it’s a good idea to propose something. Building this diving platform is a good place to start, to show anyone can help shape the face of this city.
Jump In Visualization Events
At Bishop’s Landing
Noon: Wednesday and Thursday
8 a.m.: Friday, Saturday and Sunday