City of Calgary reviews controversial booking after naked swimming event makes waves online
A private, after-hours event booked at the Southland Leisure Centre is drawing concerns from non-participants regarding the safety of minors prompting officials with the City of Calgary Community Services to discuss security with organizers.
Following the success of its clothing-optional swimming event at an undisclosed location in November, the Calgary Nude Recreation group has booked the leisure centre’s wave pool for Sunday, January 14 for the first of its scheduled monthly ‘Naked Water Slides and Wave Pool’ events.
According to a post on the group’s website, tickets for the all-ages event (minors must be accompanied by a parent) have sold out and organizers have adjusted the nude policy ‘due to the media coverage and size of the group’. The new rules require female participants to be either topless or completely nude while male participants must be naked.
The following statement was posted on the Calgary Nude Recreation website.
“Its [sic] amazing to see so many Calgarians so excited to get naked. Its [sic] painful to turn so many people away. There will be future events with the potential to be bigger, but top priority is maintaining everyone’s safety, and adjustments to policies and procedures will continue to be made to ensure this level of safety is maintained at all times.”
While organizers are encouraged by ticket sales, the event is not without its opponents. A change.org petition calling for ‘the event to be put to rest’ because “having naked children around a bunch of naked adults doesn’t seem like a good idea for any reason” has been signed more than 10,370 times as of the afternoon of Monday, January 8.
Calgarians Pamela Merrell and her husband Dan, grandparents to a combined 10 children, are among the vocal opponents to the inclusion of children in the naked swimming event.
“My concern here is the children,” said Pamela Merrell. ““What’s stopping people from taking pictures with their cameras while they’re in there?”
“I went on the site that was hosting it, I went onto their site, and I was looking to see if photographs are not allowed or anything and there isn’t anything on that waiver that I could see that prevents that. In fact, the only rules that I was able to see is that respect is shown and that you have to be naked.”
Merrell says she’s compelled to speak for the children and has taken steps to protect those involved.
The grandmother contacted the Southland Leisure Centre to inquire about safety measures and was informed the windows would be blacked out during the private event. Unsatisfied, Merrell made calls to Child Protective Services and the Calgary Police Service. During the calls she was told there would be no intervention unless a crime was committed or if a child expressed they were uncomfortable.
“I asked the police ‘What are you doing to prevent the pedophiles from coming?’,” said Merrell. “Can we have some city police presence and be looking for them. They know who the pedophiles are. I don’t.”
Dan Merrell says his experience with criminals during his time with the Gilbert Police Department in Arizona has him concerned about the all-ages naked swimming event.
“I was trained and worked child sex crimes as a detective and this kind of a venue is a venue that is sought out by pedophiles for easy opportunities for them to gather their own pictures, to satisfy themselves the best that they can.”
In a statement, City of Calgary officials confirmed safety concerns regarding the ‘Naked Water Slides and Wave Pool’ event are being reviewed.
“We are undertaking a review with the event organizer to ensure the privacy and security of participants can be maintained.”
With files from CTV's Brad MacLeod