Billings council, fundraising group would like to see outdoor rink become year-round venue

KAGAWONG – Billings Township council passed a motion to allow its parks, recreation and wellness (PRW) committee to fundraise for continued improvements to the Kagawong outdoor rink, and apply for funding to (if funding is approved) transform the rink into a year-round facility. This is in part due to the tremendous response from not only users of the outdoor rink in Kagawong, but those that flooded the ice and maintained it during the winter as well as those that have already made financial donations or donations of equipment to the cause.

Council, at a meeting last week, not only gave permission for the committee to fundraise, but is going to include $40,000 in its draft 2021 budget for rink repairs. Council decided to apply to the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative Program, which could potentially provide up to $250,000 in funding. 

Council had approved two recommendations from its PRW “to include $40,000 in the draft 2021 budget for rink repairs; and to give permission to the committee to fundraise for rink repairs and improvement.”

While noting he is was not against fundraising, Councillor Bryan Barker opposed the motion, only because he felt that council should apply for funding to the Canada healthy communities fund towards the rink, instead of council applying for funds for new community space and equipment to be installed at the Sandy Beach (which had been proposed). 

“I remember our first year as a council, we talked about the outdoor rink, making repairs and improvements and putting a roof over it. It was found that the costs of a roof would be quite substantial. As a council we deferred this until funds became available. This may be a good opportunity to put money into the arena/pad, so we can have a covered rink some improvements made.” He said that with improvements, the rink could be used for multi-purposes year-round. 

Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack pointed out over the years, “two or three committees talked about improvement to the rink but they have never been carried out. The fact that we, Andrew (Preyde) and the committee are trying to fundraise for improvements to the rink is awesome. This rink has helped to bring the community together.”
“I would also like to thank Andrew and members of the fire department who flood the ice, shovel the snow off and maintain the rink,” said Councillor Sharon Jackson. “Just a few years ago we didn’t know if there would be enough volunteers who would be around to flood the rink. And it is great to see people of all ages using the rink. Especially now when people are wanting to get outside to enjoy activities and this is limited (with COVID-19), the time is right to make improvements to the rink.”

“I agree with everyone fully on this one,” stated Councillor Michael Hunt. “If we could put a cover on the rink it could be make it a multi-purpose thing, year-round, and last many years.”

“I agree, I would rather spend money on the rink, make the improvements needed and allow it to become a year-round venture and have this project completed before looking at taking on a new program like Sandy Beach like Bryan has said,” said Councillor Alkenbrack.

Township clerk Kathy McDonald noted that the committee can make an application for the funding, along with keeping the $40,000 budgeted for the rink in place in the budget, in case the township is turned down for funding. She also said the funds in the budget could be married with the funds that Mr. Preyde and the committee raise. 

Mr. Preyde told the Recorder that there is now a Kagawong outdoor rink fundraising committee in place. 

“Usage of the rink has been tremendous this winter,” said Mr. Preyde, who pointed out members of the Billings fire department flooded the base for the rink, and have flooded and maintained it, along with other volunteers this winter. 

“And we have had a lot of people make donations of nets to be used, and shovels, and more people want to get involved in getting the rink up and going,” said Mr. Preyde. He pointed out Bridal Veil Variety, Dig and Doug Cedar Furniture and Bare Naked Beauty donated funds toward the purchase of two hockey nets for the rink, and at the same time this news was posted on Facebook, a third net was donated by Sandy and Blair Graham. Shovels to clean the rink have been donated by Sharon and Craig Jackson, along with Stoneman Enterprises and the Billings Township office staff.

“We’ve had overwhelming support from companies, businesses and individuals who want to donate toward the future plans for the arena,” said Mr. Preyde. 

The rink has been used extensively this winter, not only by people in the township, but by people from Gore Bay, Mindemoya and Little Current. “People Island-wide are coming to use it,” said Mr. Preyde. “And because of what is happening here with our outdoor rink, other municipalities are looking at doing the same,” he said, noting Mindemoya now has an oval outdoor rink in place. 

“We have donations for $10,000 so far,” stated Mr. Preyde. “And I’m up to about 22 people and businesses who have made pledges or are considering them. By making the outdoor rink a year-round facility, activities such as basketball, dances, ball hockey and roller skating could take place at the unit. It might also be a great place to move the farmers’ market there, as the washrooms in the Park Centre could be used. He also said vendors could set up for the Christmas in the Park event if there is a roof and lighting on the rink pad. 

On the committee Facebook page it states in part, “this group is here to assist in the fundraising of much needed dollars to improve and maintain Kagawong’s outdoor ice rink.” It is explained businesses and individuals have the opportunity to advertise on the new board of the Kagawong skating rink once these are installed.

“We are in the process of raising money in order to both repair and improve the outdoor rink in Kagawong,” the page continues. “The rink is in need of repairs and improvement in order to be enjoyed for years to come. Repairs will include installing a better retaining wall, from wood to stone, which would have better longevity and never have to be replaced again. Boards would be placed all the way around the rink with proper puck boards that would also be used for advertising on. The proceeds of the advertising would cover ongoing expenses and maintenance of the rink.”

Other proposed improvements include an update of the lighting system to more efficient LED lighting. “We would also like to bring water to the rink with a proper water line and spigot to avoid having it trucked in, in order to maintain the ice surface on a regular basis, and an area to store a snowblower and tools in, the website indicates. Another addition we are looking at is pricing a roof over the benches to keep the snow off or for easy clearing cleaning.”