Bracebridge reconsidering keeping Memorial Park Outdoor ice rink open
Bracebridge General Committee agreed to investigate options for keeping the Memorial Park ice rink open, in the November 7, 2023, meeting.
Town staff recommended closing the rink altogether, and to replace it with free admission to public skating on Saturdays and Sundays at the Memorial Arena instead from Jan to March.
Councillor, Don Smith, created an amendment recommending the outdoor skating remain open. He said it’s become a positive development over the years “as a focal point in winter months.”
He said he understands the challenges, however, given community interest and the small cost “there’s a good net return.” He adds, “It certainly is a very important part of Fire and Ice… Sometimes these smaller things really provide substance to the community, and the skating trail does that.”
Councillor, Debbie Vernon, concurred, indicating that outdoor skating is “central to our Town core.” She added that residents and visitors should have access to outdoor skating all of the time.
“That can’t be replaced. It contributes to mental health and physical health and well being… It’s attractive to all walks of life, and all ages…encourages people to go out, enjoy the outdoors and beauty of the Town,” added Vernon.
Councillor, Tatania Sutherland, advised families against using the rink altogether. She said it was only open about 20 days during the last season and “can be rough ice.” She added, “From a practical standpoint for using it with kids, I would warn anyone from using it because of rough ice.”
Sutherland continued, “The free ice time in the arena on weekends would probably serve a lot more families.”
Councillor, Archie Buie, was not in favour of closing the outdoor rink. He said, “It’s unique… Yes, it can be rough at times. Arrowhead in Huntsville can run through the bush and it’s not that rough.” He suggested there must be something the Town can do to improve the rink better.
“That’s what it’s all about – people taking people out and enjoying the outdoor experience…. I feel it’s a gem and I don’t want to see it lost,” he added.
Councillor, Barry Hammond, concurred that there must be a better way to maintain the ice. “It is a gem, and we need to make it better.”
He added that there are constraints with the free time at the arena and that people are “pigeonholed” only being able to use it at allotted times.
Deputy Mayor, Brenda Rhodes, indicated that the lack of sun and weather fluctuations impacts the outdoor ice.
Director of Recreation and Development, Cindy O’Regan, advised that lack of volunteers is also an issue, with more attention focused on the Annie Williams Park. She advised that it takes a lot of time and effort to maintain the Memorial Park rink. They have to use contractors for it, which also means longer wait times during poor weather conditions. And the sun in that location impacts pitting and lack of proper freezing on the ice adding to maintenance challenges.
Maloney offered suggestions for keeping the rink open, such as making it smaller and therefore easier to maintain and using portable ice surfaces.
O’Regan indicated, “The challenge is that we don’t have a large number of volunteers… It’s a difficult rink for volunteers to maintain.”
The committee agreed to keeping the outdoor rink open this year and directed staff to investigate options and costs for portable systems for next year, such as removable ice, and will discuss it further.