The COVID-19 pandemic created or exacerbated many challenges for the sector. ReImagine RREC, through an extensive literature review and consultation process, was among the first reports to document the impacts, outcomes, and opportunities for the sector that resulted from COVID-19.

There are three particularly noteworthy opportunities for the sector resulting from the pandemic. First, the public went outside! They enjoyed parks, trails, lakes, streams, streets, and sidewalks. We would be well served to capitalize on that momentum and develop policies, practices, and programs that keep people outdoors and active. Second, it is important to continue providing information and inspiration which was evident and robust during the pandemic. The public should be routinely reminded of the mental and physical benefits of connecting to nature, increasing physical activity, and pursuing a range of indoor and outdoor recreational activities. The third opportunity was the increased profile of recreation and community services departments, which adapted quickly to the crisis. These departments played a vital role in crisis response, pivoting to deliver a much-expanded range of community services (e.g., vaccination centres). The pandemic highlighted the significant role the sector plays and can continue to play in crisis preparedness and response.

There were and continue to be significant human resource implications for the sector. While not limited to aquatics, this challenge was particularly evident with lifeguards and swim instructors. Pools were not able to offer training, which created a shortage of aquatics professionals resulting in a range of challenges including reduced operating capacity, fewer staff to deliver programming, and increased risk to the public because vulnerable groups, including children and new Canadians, were not able to participate in Swim to Survive programs. The shortage across the sector meant that once programming resumed, there was a lack of staff for a range of activities and programs.