For decades, families in southwestern Ontario have cooled off in the summertime heat at the St. Marys Quarry, formerly a limestone quarry that was converted to a public swimming area in the 1940s.
Thank to a recent addition to the quarry—the Super Splash Waterpark—there are two different swimming experiences for quarry goers. I share about my one experience, which was shaped in part by the other that I did not have.
Basic and Super
Before the coming of the Super Splash Waterpark (SSW), with an admission ticket guests could swim around freely to about the middle of the quarry. The basic park now includes play features like a few rafts, a slide, and a trampoline.
The Super Splash Waterpark website explains that for this added option guests pay general admission and then 3x more to access to a giant inflatable on-the-water playground. Only a limited number of tickets are available for 2-hour time slots. Reservations are made through an online portal.
With one of the hundred spots reserved for SSW, at the quarry get a wristband, a fitted yellow life jacket, and a safety primer. SSW guests must access the inflatable playground by swimming through the “basic” swim area, now limited to the front quarter of the quarry.
The SSW park has a large set of access and safety rules. Few if any of the quarry’s water features are fully accessible, but the SSW definitely isn’t. Here’s a view of the quarry from land.
A Super Time at the Basic End
You might predict where my story of goes next. Some friends and I decide to go to the quarry, but due to the limited number of SSW tickets only half of us get access to the inflatable park. The rest of us—basic access only.
Let me tell you—there is nothing that makes an inflatable water park look like more fun than when your friends can go but you can’t (even if you are an otherwise mature, mid-life, child-free cis-woman). I sat on the grass in my suit, grumpily contemplating whether I would go in the water at all. Take that, quarry!
I asked a friend (who had walked away from her computer mid-reservation so was similarly relegated to the basic quarry area) how a 10 year-old kid might feel seeing but not being able to access the SSW. She recited some parenting wisdom about how making one’s own fun on the basic quarry side is better because it builds character. But I already had character, my 10 year-old self whined—what I wanted was the fun-looking waterpark!
My gaze could not even escape the inflatable obstacles that filled the quarry horizon, a constant reminder of where I could not go, the fun I could not have. Even my once-greater swimming freedom was reduced to a quarter of the quarry by that blow up monstrosity!
My friends eventually came back from the inflatable side—removing their special wrist bands and yellow life jackets—to spend time with the rest of us. And, as the oldest ladies on the trampoline on the “basic” side of the quarry, we did indeed make our own fun.
Next Time at the Quarry
Aside from my poutiness, it all seemed some sort of microcosm of the inequalities besetting some exercise activities in a capitalist society: only a percentage of people get access to what looks like a bigger and better time if they plan in advance, have the added money to spend, and are physically able to participate. Those with less info/tech savvy, disposable cash, and/or differences in ability are more likely to be excluded but must also watch from the sidelines.
My friends reported that the SSW part of the quarry was harder and more tiring than they had expected, and they probably wouldn’t pay for it again.
If I went back, would I choose to plan further ahead to reserve a limited SSW ticket, even if the park is less accessible, I have to pay 3 times as much, and I may not even have that much more fun?
Sadly, my answer is probably yes—because I know that the real privilege of privilege (in a capitalist society or a two-tiered Waterpark) is having the freedom to choose.