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Skaters herald rink’s return

With a last name like Blades, it’s no wonder the Woodlea resident took up the cause for a skating rink.

In early November, Bev Blades stood before Red Deer city council pleading with all nine members to reinstate the heart of her community –– the Woodlea community rink.

The ice surface was one of five lower usage outdoor rinks in the city that were closed for cost savings last year.

Others closed were in Glendale, Sunnybrook, Central Middle School and Fairview. The Fairview rink has since reopened.

These older rinks were basically daytime use with no lighting on site.

Blades talked about the importance of active living, having communities with multi-purpose recreational facilities and the love her community has for the skating rink.

“Our community missed it,” said Blades. “It’s a huge asset to our community. Of course, I used it every year. People do care about that rink. I skate on it with my dog, husband, children and grandchildren.”

Blades said one of the reasons she moved back to Red Deer from Lethbridge in 2005 was because of the city’s outdoor recreation facilities that offered skating, tobogganing and skiing in the winter months.

Blades said the city is encouraging a downtown lifestyle with multi-purpose facilities and having a skating rink coupled with a tobogganing hill, as in Woodlea, only make sense.

The Woodlea rink was reinstated as a snowbank rink a week later for the rest of the winter. Keeping the rink open next year will be discussed during the operating budget deliberations.

Woodlea residents Debra and Mark Hunter hope the rink remains open for many years to come.

All five of their children between the ages of two and 14 have either learned to skate or are in the process of learning to skate on the rink.

“I think it is important for families to have recreation options within walking distance of their homes,” said Debra Hunter.

“Not every family has two cars (if a parent is working), or even one car to get to a rink. I feel it is important for recreational options to be available in the neighbourhoods so that everyone has the opportunity for inexpensive and easily accessible fitness options.”

Hunter said a skating rink, even just a snowbank rink, provides months of possible physical activity for a neighbourhood within walking distance.

Hunter grew up in Grandview, where today there’s a snowbank and a boarded rink. She recalls skating after school with her sisters until it got dark.

“It keeps you active,” said Hunter.

“It gives you an inexpensive way to keep your family active. The other nice thing is it’s an active family activity. You go over there and you see a family together instead of kids being dropped off for an activity and their parents picking them up and off they go.”

Outdoor rinks span the city in communities such as Eastview, Riverside Meadows and Rosedale.

Some are simply ponds, a piece of ice that is cleared by the city or a rink with boards.

Steve Davison, the city’s parks amenities supervisor, said rinks are just as busy as they were five years ago throughout the city.

“It’s probably busier in some areas,” said Davison.

“These neighbourhoods go through changes over time. There’s a lot of attrition. As the population ages in older neighbourhoods, the use obviously falls but a lot of those residences are sold and younger families move in. It kinda revitalizes the neighbourhood again.”

As the city grows and as the central park sites are developed in new neighbourhoods, community rinks are a major component of the puzzle. The central park sites are phased in over several years as the area develops.

New areas such as Clearview North, Timberlands, Ironstone and Timberstone are waiting for their rinks.

“(Rinks are) one of the higher demand items,” said Davison.



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