It may be the end of the line for the outdoor skating trail in downtown Bracebridge.
On Tuesday the Town’s general committee will decide whether to discontinue ice skating at Memorial Park this winter. They will also take a look at offering free admission to public skates at the Memorial Arena on scheduled Saturdays and Sundays between January 2, 2024 and March 31, 2024.
In a report to committee, Will Crowe, the Town’s Manager of Facilities indicates it has become much more costly to maintain the outdoor rink, and climate change has dramatically reduced the number of days the rink is open to the public.
From 2017 to 2020, rink organizer Mike Jefford, with the assistance of Beaver Creek Correctional Institution and Town staff, maintained the Memorial Park Winter Village and the outdoor ice rink, says Crowe. In the fall of 2020, Jefford informed Town staff that he would no longer be assisting with the maintenance of the Memorial Park Winter Village and the outdoor ice rink. As a result, the 2021 Town Budget included $10,100 to hire a contractor to complete the preparation and maintenance of the rink.
Crowe says since 2021 the cost to hire contractors to prepare and maintain outdoor ice rinks has increased substantially. Furthermore, in 2022 staff issued an RFQ for contractors to prepare and maintain the outdoor ice rinks and no quotes were received.
As a result, 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.
Crowe says as an additional challenge is that the impacts of climate change have made it increasingly difficult to prepare and operate the outdoor ice rinks. In 2023, the Memorial Park outdoor skating rink was only open for 20 days, and these were not continuous days.
Crowe also noted in his report that staff are recommending the Annie Williams Park skating rink remain open.
At Annie Williams Memorial Park, flooding and snow removal is completed mainly by volunteers and Beaver Creek, with some assistance from contractors on an ‘as needed’ basis. The maintenance can be completed by hand with smaller hoses and a snow blower, says Crowe, but Memorial Park requires larger commercial equipment, contractors and their staff, along with Beaver Creek, to complete floods due to the size of the ice surface.
The general committee will consider the motion during their next meeting on Nov. 7 at 9 a.m
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