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Volunteers on thin ice just now

The vagaries of the weather have made outdoor rinks increasingly difficult to maintain. Determined to keep up with a quintessentially Canadian wintertime experience, however, Woolwich has a cadre of volunteers who do their best to provide venues for fun outside.

Outdoor rinks in Breslau, Conestogo, Maryhill and Elmira are all made possible with the assistance of tireless volunteers who build and maintain the facilities.

“It baffles me every year how lucky we are to have the great volunteers that we have,” said Vicky Trendell-Taylor, community development coordinator for Woolwich Township.

Volunteers across the township have been hard at work to get the various outdoor rinks skate ready.

For some, the boards have just been set. Others have yet to be touched. And as of this past weekend, Maryhill had ice in place.

“Maryhill’s is open now and they also have a very beautiful rink,” said Trendell-Taylor, noting that as of this past week it was the only one confirmed to be open. “They are all great, but they have a very nice updated one.”

“I was out there on the weekend and there were some people skating out there.”

This is the first year Trendell-Taylor has coordinated and worked with the volunteers who build and maintain the rinks. Although the township does not take the lead on the outdoor rinks, each is built on public property so staff is there to support in any way they can, whether that’s to purchase new shovels or connect volunteers with local businesses for acquiring products.

As a Breslau resident prior to her experience behind the scenes, she says she’s always admired the work the volunteers do.

“I have lived in Breslau for about five years, and that rink, I didn’t know until I started working for the township, is also run by volunteers,” she said. “We have some very passionate volunteers, so we are lucky.”

Spending the countless hours it takes to maintain and build the rinks, especially in this part of Ontario where the weather can fluctuate quickly, as it did this week, pays off for volunteers when they get to see others enjoying the fruits of their labours, she said.

“As a resident, I feel like these people are passionate about their communities,” she said. “Speaking with one of the Breslau volunteers, the lead volunteer, he said in a day and age where we have so much conscious about mental health and physical activity, we really need something for these kids to be able to do when it’s dark and gloomy and cold.”

Trendell-Taylor has seen firsthand the work that these volunteers have done in providing the community with a place for all to enjoy Canada’s favourite pastime.

“My oldest son has been going to the Breslau rink since he was probably in Grade 4 and he is in Grade 10  now. Adults will come and the kids will come. And if the little preschoolers want to come and skate, then they will play a little game of hockey off on the side,” she said. “They are all so very conscientious and respectful of each other it is something you really don’t see anywhere else. I think they have a drive and a passion to watch our kids and give our kids a safe place to play.

“It is just, it’s truly Canadian. It really, really is. I love it.”

Tied to the weather, opening dates will vary and are unconfirmed – residents are advised to keep an eye out when visiting the parks.

“Maryhill  was open on Saturday night, but we have had temperatures in the positives the last two days so I don’t really know – especially because I don’t know how much of a solid base they got,” she said of the weather. “There are some specifics that come into play like they have to have a certain thickness to have it open and unlocked for residents and for the public, but there are some things they have to follow – safety reasons. You don’t want a kid to get onto the ice and have their skate go through because its melted, so our volunteers will keep up on that and our maintenance guys will help out anytime that it is needed.”

Outdoor rinks in Woolwich can be found at Breslau Memorial Park, Conestogo Park, Elmira Aspen Park and Maryhill Heritage Park.

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