TEMAGAMI – With COVID-19 not going away anytime soon, Temagami council has begun discussing some options when it comes to winter recreation opportunities at the Community Centre.
With all the uncertainties surrounding COVID, and with current arena restrictions, the municipality had yet to determine if the ice plant would be operational for the 2020-21 winter season.
Council looked at a pair of options at the November 19 regular meeting.
The first option would be for the town to start up the ice plant and have the ice ready for the Christmas season.
Staff would ensure that the municipality would continue to follow current health regulations while offering public skating, pick-up hockey, and other events for which revenue could be generated.
“To proceed with this option we would need to develop health and safety protocols, cleaning protocols and purchase additional protective equipment,” recreation manager Kelly Hearn wrote in his report to council.
“The start-up procedures for the ice plant would also need to be completed.”
The second option would be that the municipality does not start up the ice plant this winter.
Staff would consider other options for recreational programming for the community to stay active and healthy.
“From the operational funds that are not utilized on the start-up, shut down and maintenance of the ice surface, staff would find alternate means of providing recreation to the community,” said Hearn.
Hearn noted that staff are also considering the purchase of a made-to-measure, rubberized floor for the arena surface.
“This would increase the options of non-ice arena use,” he reasoned.
Councillor John Shymko was in favour of the second option, suggesting that the town “could plow a few rinks on Net Lake and Lake Temagami” so that they could still offer public skating.
Treasurer-administrator Craig Davidson said he didn’t disagree with Shymko’s idea, but that it might not be something the municipality could do itself based on its insurance coverage.
“It might need to be something that’s done at arm’s length (from council) volunteers,” he explained.
Davidson added that he has always thought an outdoor rink, along with a bonfire, by the municipal office would be a good idea “as long as the fire doesn’t melt down into the lake.”
Shymko then said he wouldn’t mind plowing the potential rink himself.
Councillor Margaret Youngs was also in favour of the second option while Councillor Jamie Koistinen said she was leaning towards favouring the first option because of how “depressing” Northern Ontario winters can be.
“If we’re removing any kind of recreation from the kids here in town, or even families to have some kind of outings that are safe within the community, then what does that do for the community members there?” she questioned.
“Christmas is coming, there’s the two-week (school) break and possibly extensions beyond that. So I tend to think that some families might benefit from going to the arena, especially during a time where you’re not quite able yet to go ski-dooing, you can’t go ice fishing, there’s different things that can’t happen in the community at that time.”
Councillor Barret Leudke stated that he didn’t feel the municipality should be encouraging group gatherings of any kind because of the increasing risks and uncertainty associated with the coronavirus.
“We need to go into a full lockdown and other municipalities have suggested to stay directly home. I’m not in support of (group gatherings), I see this virus getting worse long before it gets better,” he said.
“I want to encourage more distancing and no group gatherings.”
Deputy Mayor Cathy Dwyer said she would be in favour of the second option as long as the municipality looks into other recreational possibilities for its residents.
She said she has heard from some parents who understand the municipality might not put ice in the arena but were concerned about a lack of activities for their kids this winter.
Council agreed on a motion to choose the second option and not start up the ice plant this winter.
Hearn said that staff would work on seeking out other recreation opportunities to keep the community active this winter.
Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker