Monday 21 September 2020

No summer holiday? Councillors propose ‘wild swimming’ in the river

With long summer months ahead and limited possibilities of foreign holidays, councillors in Amsterdam have proposed designating official ‘wild swimming’ points along the Amstel river.

Jan-Bert Vroege, a D66 councillor and local party water spokesman told DutchNews.nl that the city needs to provide and advertise more official safe spots for children and adults to swim in natural water, to provide a vital, open leisure facility while maintaining social distancing.

He has made a proposal to create the first official swimming spots on the Amstel river, in order to ensure that swimming there is safe and there are more recreational opportunities for Amsterdammers rich and poor who are stuck in the city.

‘The water in Amsterdam’s channels has got a lot cleaner in recent years,’ he told DutchNews.nl. ‘Before, it was really dangerous to swim in the canals and in the Amstel but nowadays the water quality is a lot better. People swim at a lot of places that aren’t officially designated and some get very busy. People need recreation spots and the 1.5m distancing rules will still apply.’

‘So my suggestion is to make far more places for swimming and communicate this so that far more people can enjoy the water and weather, at a walking or cycling distance from the city, and not all squashed together, especially if we have to stay here this summer and can’t all go on holiday.’

Sustainable

He pointed out in his proposal that the city has an ‘ice skating’ bill to ensure that if the canals freeze, people can enjoy the ‘unique and romantic experience’ of skating on the water and that the city’s Water Vision aims to use more of the water for sport and recreation.

Water covers about 35% of the surface area of the city, which is one of the reasons mayor Femke Halsema has warned that Amsterdam’s capacity for international tourism is limited in a distanced society. So Vroege and his D66 colleagues believe Amsterdammers should make far more use of the water, investing in waterside steps if necessary, paddling pools for children in all areas and precautions against blue-green algae.

‘Water-based recreation is sustainable and cheap, everyone can take advantage of it regardless of income and people won’t need to sit in their houses if there’s good weather this summer,’ said Vroege.

Canals

He added that swimming in canals is not recommended everywhere due to the amount of rubbish and old bikes to be found at the bottom, although new measurements have found that since the corona shut down the water quality has improved dramatically. Queen Máxima joined the many Dutch people who have taken a dive there when she took part in an annual canal charity swim in 2012.

A spokesman for Waternet waterboard told DutchNews.nl that the municipal and regional councils have to apply for official swimming points, before it will test the water. ‘We don’t advise on the place, but will advise about the water and swimming quality,’ he said.

A spokesman for Amsterdam city council said the new proposals are being looked at and it is investigating the possibilities.

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