It appears that Bracebridge will maintain the skating trail in Memorial Park for at least another winter season.
During yesterday’s Bracebridge general committee meeting, councillors voted 4-3 in favour of an amendment to maintain the trail for the 2023-24 season.
Town staff had recommended the municipality cease maintaining the trail as it has become much more costly to maintain the outdoor rink than when it began in 2017, and climate change has dramatically reduced the number of days the rink is open to the public.
Coun. Don Smith brought forward an amendment to maintain the trail, saying it has become a focal point for the town during the winter months and it sets Bracebridge apart from other communities.
“I recognize that there are challenges but based on the interest in the community and relatively small about of money….there is a good net return,” said Smith.
Cindy O’Regan, the Town’s director of recreation, said the recommendation to close the trail was not one that staff took lightly. She said the lack of shade in the park and warmer temperatures had limited skating to only 20 days last winter. In addition Memorial Park does not have the volunteers to take care of the ice the same way Annie Williams Park does for that rink. In 2023 staff secured the services of Muskoka Events Services at a cost of $95 per hour to prepare and maintain the Memorial Park outdoor ice rink.
Part of staff’s original recommendation was also to offer free admission to public skates at the Memorial Arena on scheduled Saturdays and Sundays between January 2, 2024 and March 31, 2024. However, the motion passed by the Committee yesterday would cancel that free ice time.
Coun. Tatiana Sutherland said with the often poor quality of the skating trail and the frequent closures, the free arena time would better serve local families than the outdoor skating trail.
While the committee ultimately voted unanimously in favour of the motion as amended, the vote must still be ratified by Town council during their meeting next Wednesday.
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