Saving Plant Bath

Plant Bath pic



The Community Foundation of Ottawa’s support for the Plant Pool Recreation Association with a $1000 grant at a critical moment in late 1997 morphed into a 7 million dollar city facility in 2004- the beautiful Plant Recreation Centre at Preston and Somerset Streets.


How did such wizardry come about?

Look back to the mid 1990’s. A dedicated group of “Friends of the Plant Bath” had been fighting to keep the 76 year old facility open for over a decade. When it was finally declared structurally unsound and closed in1996, they continued to campaign to ensure that it was rebuilt. The city process for replacing the pool was on track with architectural concept drawings completed. Then, suddenly, the municipal debt crisis in late 1997 put a freeze on all new capital expenditures and derailed all plans for a new pool.


In shocked silence the “Friends of the Plant Bath” felt the proverbial straw had been wielded and they had no energy to carry on. However, within 24 hours of hearing the news a new group within the community coalesced around the total injustice of letting a badly needed city facility in one of the least served areas of town simply fade from the city plans.


But how could this new group build a whole new level of involvement within the community; pressure the city to reconsider its decision; and begin a serious fund raising campaign? Where could they turn for help and support? Someone had heard of a Community Foundation- it seemed like a reasonable place to start since we were certainly a community needing help.


Knowing that we had to be visible in the community in order to begin building a solid base, and discouraged by the derelict look of the boarded up building in the centre of our community, we determined that we would start by approaching the CF for $1000 to help paint the hoardings. The Community Foundation’s warm reception, encouragement, and quick agreement to the initial $1000 for “Rebuilding Plant Bath Pool: Phase 1” issued on December 22, 1997 was exactly what we needed. It gave us the courage to believe that we were not completely crazy to start waging such a huge battle against such poor odds, and that simply by asking we might get help. It was all it took to propel us forward.


Ten months later in a letter to the Community Foundation dated October 19, 1998, we admitted that we had not yet spent the part of the $1000 allocated for paints because donated cans of paint had poured in; our children and teens had created some beautiful art work (see attached pictures); we were preparing for the first major fund raising “Dessert Party”; with a self help grant from the city we had transformed the Park adjacent to the boarded up building into useful recreational space with a new “quad” basketball stand, sand volleyball court, and 2 soccer fields; with a second grant from the Community Foundation we had run a free summer long drop-in program for the neighbourhood children; we had formed the Plant Pool Recreation Association with a constitution; and we had pressured the City Hall into publicly declaring that the Plant Pool was on record as the number one priority for capital expenditures and a reserve fund was established to hold any special allocations of funds which might be made towards the project until the funding freeze was lifted.


It still took almost another six years before we could take the first plunge in the new pool, and the intervening years were not all smooth sailing. Setbacks such as the entire project disappearing from the list of committed future projects during the move to the new amalgamated city, only served to redouble our efforts to press on.


Throughout it all, we knew that the original $1000 commitment from the Community Foundation stood firm, and we could always count on CF support, whether in the form of a friendly face at our annual fund raising events or further grants for our youth programs. We were committed to ensure that that initial $1000 grew into a new pool – and it did.



Carol Sissons
December 14, 2011