Niagara-on-the-Lake could have three new public skating rinks open across the municipality this winter thanks to the lobbying efforts of a former town councillor.
Town council unanimously approved, in principle, a plan put together by NOTL residents to build three outdoor skating rinks this winter.
Former town councillor Paolo Miele on Monday formally asked council for permission to build three rinks on public property and for the rinks to be covered under the town’s insurance.
Miele said the project would be completely funded by residents and only needed the town's go-ahead for the work to be done.
The three rinks would cost a total of $8,250, or $2,750 per rink, Miele said, noting he has a local contractor ready to provide all the supplies and build the rinks.
“The only thing we have to do as a community is to fill it and, of course, to flood it every once in a while,” Miele told councillors.
He said he has already raised $2,000 for the project and the municipality would not need to chip in.
However, “If the council wishes to throw some money at it — fantastic,” he said.
Miele said the goal is to create fun activities and lon- lasting memories for the town’s youth this winter.
“We used to have ice rinks and the fire department would fill them for us and the kids went out skating, whether it was playing hockey or just going out skating,” he said.
“I think it’s a good opportunity to bring back that opportunity for kids and families."
Miele noted that even if the town rejected the idea, kids will find other places to skate, possibly in dangerous spots.
“We’ve had kids on the Line 3 conservation ponds — which is fine but maybe not the safest thing — trying to go on our storm ponds. I know the town has had some issues with that,” he said.
Coun. Gary Burroughs asked who would be responsible for maintaining the rinks once constructed.
“What we’re looking for, ultimately, is to get volunteers to maintain the rinks,” Miele said.
He also said he was open to volunteer firefighters helping with flooding the rinks, an idea that some councillors were not in favour of.
“I’m worried about putting more volunteer work onto our firefighters,” coun. Erwin Wiens said.
Wiens had no problem supporting the proposal and bringing it under the town's insurance so long as the project is self-sufficient and relied minimally on town staff involvement.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero agreed, saying, “This is a community, volunteer thing, so, it’s on them and this does not require or obligate the town to put in staff hours we don’t have.”
Coun. Clare Cameron said several rinks are already being built in town by private companies. There will be a rink at the Pillar & Post's "Monet Gardens," one at Wayne Gretzky Estates and another at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery.
Miele said the issue with those places is they are on private property and often use of the rinks can be reserved for paying customers at the vineyards. He also didn’t like the idea of kids playing hockey at an establishment that serves alcohol.
Disero said areas like Old Town and Virgil already have skating options, whether public or private, and asked Miele if the group would consider building a rink in Glendale.
“Wherever it’s needed, that’s where we are,” Miele said.
Council approved a motion that requested Miele put his proposal in writing which establishes who will be responsible for maintaining the project and co-operate with town staff to choose suitable locations for the rinks.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report