RMWB council approves developing plan for outdoor rinks in backyards, municipal land

Administration will create a policy for homeowners building temporary outdoor skating rinks on or adjacent to their property.

Article content

Council has unanimously asked the administration to develop and update a policy that lets homeowners build temporary outdoor skating rinks on or adjacent to their property.

Advertisement 2

Article content

There are similar programs in Grande Prairie and Lloydminster. Until that policy is developed and approved by council, municipal staff will work with residents that have built community rinks on municipal lands to guarantee safety.

Article content

“We have a lot of land that we actually create a firebreaks and green spaces that community members have been using to make make rinks,” said Mayor sandy Bowman, who proposed the motion. “A lot of them are very well constructed. They’re very well done. They’ve taken safety into consideration.”

Bowman cited minor hockey as the largest winter sport in Fort McMurray, but the RMWB’s public ice rinks are limited.

Ice time at indoor arenas at Frank Lacroix Arena, Centerfire Place and MacDonald Island Park is in high demand, which prompted the RMWB to resurrect the Northside Twin Arena project last year.

Advertisement 3

Article content

There are 10 outdoor rinks maintained by the RMWB, but these public rinks are on a first-come, first serve basis. It’s also harder to organize hockey and skating events for children when adults or teenagers get to the rinks first.

Bowman commended community members for making their own hockey rinks in their backyards or on firebreaks next to their homes. His neighbour has a backyard rink and there are no disruptions in the area, he said.

Bowman also pointed out the ice rink at MacDonald Island Park is named after Terry Conroy, who made outdoor public ice rinks for the public and kids. Some of those kids went on to play for the NHL and other hockey leagues.

“That’s our heritage as a northern community. We talk about being a northern community and there are little kids that are playing on these breaks. They’re not disrupting anything,” said Bowman. “Our role in government is not to block people doing things, but help people do things safely.”

Advertisement 4

Article content

Former NHL players Dan Hodgson and Mark Hartigan, both of whom now live in Fort McMurray, endorsed the idea in letters to council. The motion was also supported by residents Kyle McConnell and Andy Moore.

“I’ve been building a rink for probably six, seven years. I’ve had nothing but positive feedback from parents and kids. I’ve met many great people,” said Moore. “We lobby that we have a northern living community that promotes family and community involvement, and what better way to do it than kids playing outside?”

McConnell spent three years playing junior hockey. He said minor hockey can cost $900 per child and an adult gentleman’s league can cost $400. This makes parents look for alternatives.

“This does not hurt anyone. It does not affect anyone. It takes a simple spring cleanup and a few hours. It gives kids a reason to go outside and play during long boring winter months, which we know is good for mental health,” he said.

Get the news and events of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo in your inbox every Friday morning by signing up for our newsletter.

[email protected]

Article content