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Skaters carve out little piece of paradise on community rinks (4 photos)

'We always had a rink down in front of the Barrie train station, near what is now Memorial Square,' recalls former mayor Janice Laking

Lace ‘em up and hit the ice.

Fresh air, stress relief and exercise are key during these trying times of COVID and avid skaters can still find a patch to slide around on.

From bone to steel, people have been hitting the ice for thousands of years.

One theory has it that Finnish people created the first skates out of animal bones around 5,000 years ago to conserve energy while hunting.

Nowadays, people aren’t hunting while skating; they are seeking that elusive feeling of freedom while on their blades.

Halcyon and her friend, Alyssa, found that feeling while using Centennial Park Community Ice Rink on Lakeshore Drive this week, one of only two city rinks (except for city-enabled volunteer rinks) the also includes Circle at the Centre at Barrie City Hall.

“The view of the water (and Kempenfelt Bay) and everything is amazing,” Halcyon tells BarrieToday. “It’s a great environment and the people are really nice

“We’re here quite a bit. It’s not really busy because they only allow 15 people on the ice at once.”

Fresh air is key and the rink is the place to get it, she says, adding skaters she’s seen have been following proper protocols.

“I think it’s pretty good. Skating gets people outside, especially during the whole pandemic and everything. Everybody has a mask and it’s a good way of keeping active." 

Former Barrie mayor Janice Laking, who is now 90 years old, has fond memories of skating outdoors.

Growing up, she had the good fortune of being able to use someone’s backyard rink, which was a busy spot for the neighbourhood kids.

“It was very popular. It was party time,” she says with a laugh. “That’s where you met your friends after school and particularly after supper. After dinner, you usually skated for an hour and then went to bed.

"We skated at night during the week and on the weekends we skated in the daytime.”

And when the time of year was right  when Mother Nature co-operated a bit more than she seems to now  Kempenfelt Bay beckoned.

“The main thing that we were anxious for was the bay to freeze over. Then we always had a rink down in front of the Barrie train station, near what is now Memorial Square,” Laking says. “That was the thing to do. You all went out and met your friends, skated, found your girlfriends or found your boyfriends.”

But now, with a changing climate, lake ice is more unpredictable than ever and skating is not encouraged. As police and firefighters say, ’No ice is safe ice'.

But there are other options.

“Barrie has a number of volunteer-run outdoor ice rinks (maximum 10 skater), located in parks around the city,” says city spokesperson Scott Lamantia. “Volunteers must sign a maintenance agreement and submit it to the city each year.

“Volunteers commit to maintaining the ice surface by scraping and flooding, and must allow all members of the community free and unlimited access to the rink.”

The city helps build the base for the rink at the start of each season, provides ice rink equipment (water hoses, nozzle and tap connections), clears snow from the ice on weekdays, and inspects rink locations twice a week.

“It is very clear that, despite COVID-19, City of Barrie residents show that they are community-oriented and passionate about building ice rinks for everyone to enjoy,” says Dave Friary, the city’s director of operations.

A list of potential volunteer rinks is available on the city’s website, but not all of those rinks are necessarily open at any given time, Lamantia says, so a quick driveway would be in order.


Ian McInroy

About the Author: Ian McInroy

Ian McInroy is an award-winning photographer and journalist with more than 30 years in the industry
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