Katrine residents are welcoming the completion of an outdoor ice rink.
The rink, located next to the Katrine Community Centre, opened Jan. 2. And from social media postings, Armour Coun. Rod Ward says “it's been a super positive result.
“We're getting lots of updates of parents taking pictures of their kids,” Ward said.
“You see the activity going on. I don't live far from here so I'm checking it all the time and there are people using it regularly.”
The success of the outdoor rink is the result of an experiment Armour council carried out in the winter of 2020.
Council approved the creation of a temporary rink using the parking lot at Doe Lake Park, since the area is not used during the winter.
The temporary rink was only in operation for a few weeks and was forced to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting the number of people who could be on an ice surface at any time.
Ward said keeping an eye on the number of ice users would have been difficult for the small municipality to monitor, so instead, it made the decision to close the rink.
But Ward says even though the temporary rink was in operation for only a few weeks, it was well utilized.
Ward had earlier said people raved about the outdoor rink, so council decided to create a permanent rink that could also double as a basketball court during warmer months.
Armour received a $100,000 grant from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program and then $148,000 arrived from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp.
The township pooled the money and was able to lay down the concrete pad, put up rink boards, buy six lights for nighttime use and acquire two basketball hoops.
The rink also has fencing on two sides to prevent errant hockey pucks from flying into neighbouring yards.
There's enough money to add further fencing to the rink's two other sides so the entire rink will be fenced in.
This additional fencing won't be installed until the spring.
Ward says the only cost to the municipality for the entire project is paying a contractor for four months of the year to maintain the rink.
“Everything else was covered by the grants,” he said.
In the non-winter months when the pad is used as a basketball court, consideration is still being given to see if it's possible to paint lines so the pad can also be used as a tennis court.
“The tennis component was kind of an afterthought,” Ward said.
“When we were looking at the size of the pad, we thought maybe we could accommodate both, basketball and tennis. So if we can find a way to accommodate tennis we'll do it. If not, we'll just stick to basketball.”
In the meantime, the municipality is drawing up a schedule of when the rink can be used for people who just want to get in some casual skating and for others who want to play hockey or shoot pucks.
Ward hopes community members will be respectful of the schedule.
The ice rink can only be used from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. so the noise and activity do not disturb neighbours.
The same hours will apply when the site is used for basketball.
“There are several homes nearby and we want to respect their privacy.”
Ward said the entire project has been “a real partnership with the private sector.”
He said four businesses were contracted to carry out the work and three of them were from Katrine.
“So there was a nice local feel to this,” he said.
“And we know they gave us a break on the work they did. They did extra things they didn't have to do.”
The rink will operate for as long as the winter weather allows.
Ward estimates it will be about four months of the year before the focus changes to young people playing basketball and staying active.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.