By a four to three vote, Bracebridge’s General Committee agreed to keep the Memorial Park skating trail operational this winter.
The decision went against what Will Crowe, Manager of Facilities, recommended in his Nov. 7 report to committee. He cited the high cost of maintaining the trail and its lack of use as the reason.
From when the trail was started in 2017 until 2020, it was maintained by volunteers. However, from 2021 onwards, Crowe wrote the town had to hire a contractor and the cost has been increasing every year going from just over $10,000 in ’21 to $15,556 in 2023.
He noted the trail was open for 20 days in 2023.
An amendment was put forward by Coun. Don Smith asking for the trail to continue and for staff to seek a contractor to maintain it. The alternative idea would mean free skating
“Sometimes these smaller things really provide substance to that wording ‘sense of community’ and I think that the skating trail has done that and I think that it is something that, despite the challenges, we should move forward with,” he said.
Smith pointed out how the trail has become a “focal point” in the winter and “sets Bracebridge apart” from neighbouring communities.
Coun. Tatiana Sutherland said she has taken her kids for a skate on the trail but said the ice is often “rough.”
Cindy O’Regan, Director of Recreation, said the area where the trail doesn’t lend itself to good ice, comparing it to the rink at Annie Williams Memorial Park.
She noted the size of the trail at Memorial Park makes it difficult to maintain. Unlike at Annie Williams where it’s a simple rink and maintained by a group of dedicated volunteers, O’Regan explained the trail is looked over by a contractor who has other priorities, notably snow removal. She added the Memorial Park rink is in the sun which causes rough patches in the ice.
“It’s not a recommendation we took lightly,” she said.
While approved by committee, the decision still needs to be ratified by council during the Nov. 15 meeting.