Tay skating toward rink reopening mid-month

·4 min read

Plans are in motion to get the Tay Community Rink open for the winter season starting November 15, even if the hoops to jump through keep changing by the provincial government without warning.

Bryan Anderson, manager of parks, recreation, and facility services, provided an information report at a regular meeting of Tay council to give an update for the status of the rink.

“I hope there’s some confidence in council that staff will work once again within the guidelines set out through the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) and our township emergency control group (ECG) to have a facility that’s open for free public time, and also available for private bookings this year,” said Anderson. “Hopefully, we can get back to some type of normal over there at the rink. I know it’s a very well-used facility within our community.”

Tay Community Rink located at Talbot Park, 560 Calvert Street in Port McNicoll, has been closed since late January due to COVID-19 restriction mandates by the provincial government.

Within the operating plan presented to council, two staff members would be on shift during open times for cleaning and disinfecting duties, handling group compliance and other paperwork.

The rink has two dressing rooms which can host eight people each, and an overflow room which can host six extra people for a total 22-person capacity limit. Staff would require proof of vaccination for anyone entering the facility, with a buffer of 40 minutes cleaning time between user groups. Showers would not be available for use.

Physical distancing would be required at all times including in change rooms, and masks and face coverings would be required by anyone in the facility except those participating on the ice.

Coun. Sandy Talbot, who had spoken to an agenda item for a COVID-19 staff vaccination policy shortly before this report, questioned Anderson on staff requiring proof of vaccination status upon entry.

Talbot presented a hypothetical youngster of age 10, stating, “He comes to the rink, he wants to go skating, but he has no proof of vaccination. Tell me how that will work?”

Anderson responded that currently ages 5-to-12 are not part of the vaccination rollout.

“I’m reviewing those documents from the SMDHU and the province; I seem to be living and breathing them," he said. "Those types of things, we are keeping a very close eye on them, and we would have a plan in place when we know what we are and aren’t supposed to do.”

Talbot sympathized: “It’s a really hard place to be, isn’t it? Telling a little one, ‘no, you can’t come in, you’re not vaccinated.'"

Coun. Paul Raymond held issue with the capacity limit of 22 people, citing that people who attend the rink. but don’t use the change rooms -- tightening skates on benches at the outdoor facility, for example -- would be counted toward the maximum occupancy.

“That’s going to be another hard one to enforce,” said Raymond, requesting the ECG look into that scenario as well.

Anderson explained that between the time the report was written and the presentation to council, the province had changed its COVID-19 policies regarding outdoor recreation amenities.

“Most recently with that announcement,” said Anderson, “as long as you’re checking proof of vaccination at facilities capacity limits have actually been thrown out the window.

“We’ll have to work through those details of whether we want to stick by capacity limits; whether we want to check proof of vaccination, because at some outdoor facilities you necessarily don’t if they aren’t entering an indoor part of the facility. These are operational details that seem to be haunting me a bit at night, but we will get through it,” Anderson added.

Council received the report as information, with intent for further discussions between staff, the ECG, and the SMDHU to work out details closer to the proposed November 15 opening date.

Further information on the Tay Community Rink can be found on the Tay township website.

Tay council meets for regular council meetings every fourth Wednesday of the month. Further information including council’s agenda can be found on the Tay township website.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca

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