ESTEVAN — Two out of Estevan’s three outdoor skating rinks are fully operational.
The Audrey Fichter Memorial Arena at Kin Hillside Park was flooded and has been maintained by the Estevan Kin Clubs volunteers since early January, while the rink at the Rusty Duce Memorial Park opened just before Christmas, thanks to the local Estevan Lions Club members.
While service clubs' volunteers look after the ice surfaces, the city takes care of opening and closing buildings adjacent to the rinks at set times.
Both outdoor spaces depend on the weather, but Rod March, the city's parks and facilities manager, said that currently both are available to the public. The buildings open between 9 and 9:30 a.m. and close at 9:30 p.m. by the city staff.
"Please stick to the rules that are posted in there," March asked the public.
He also noted that the Rusty Duce rink has a natural dirt and grass surface below the ice, while the one at Hillside is cement, so the two rinks require different approaches to flooding and maintenance. They may need to be flooded several times throughout the season whenever required.
"It's natural ice, so you are not going to get it as good as arena ice or artificial ice," March said. "But they've got their groups of volunteers, and sometimes the city comes in and helps to clear any snow off if there's a snow event, and then they'll go and do a flood when it's needed."
March also noted that the city is grateful to the local service clubs' volunteers, who put a lot of work into starting and maintaining the Estevan outdoor rinks every year.
"I want to thank all those volunteers. Without them, it'd be very difficult to have that outdoor natural ice. They put in a lot of hours over there," March said.
"All that we ask is that people respect the signage out there, as those volunteers are putting in a lot of hours to try and get those rinks up and running. We're fortunate to have all those volunteers, and I just want to thank them again."
The third Estevan outdoor rink, located in the Westview neighbourhood, is once again not going to be operational this season. Construction is currently underway at the site to put up a washroom facility.
"We're putting in a new building down there, and the water system is tied to that building. So with the weather delays of doing the building, they couldn't even start to flood down there. But it will be nice for next year," March said.
By the time the construction will be completed, there won't be enough season left to even try pouring the ice. But March noted that while construction was delayed due to weather, they plan to be completed in time so that the new building would be available for pathway users and the community comes spring.
The outdoor rinks will remain open to the public, weather permitting, until it's no longer safe to skate on them. The city will inform the public when the decision to close the rinks for the season is made.