Warmer winters make it more difficult to maintain outdoor ice rinks, but that hasn’t stopped a community group in Halifax from successfully providing a venue for local skaters and hockey enthusiasts.
For the past seven years, the Dakin Drive Recreation Association has managed a community rink at the corner of Dakin Drive and Kearney Lake Road.
“Before that, I was building a rink and some of the other neighbours were building rinks in their yards for their families,” said Chris Harrington, a member of the recreation association. “We were able to pool our energies together in one location and have one big rink.”
The seed was first planted when a customer to Harrington’s Christmas tree lot suggested building a community rink on the site. After discussions with the adjacent Anglican church and support and funding from then-councillor Debbie Hum, the rink was born.
Harrington and community member Jody Pace are two of the driving forces behind the initiative.
“The first year we were a little smaller. About 48 by 75 (feet). That was a big hit,” Harrington recalled.
“The following year, a local contractor offered to do some excavating to make it even bigger and volunteered time and equipment to level and landscape. We now have a 48 by 100 (foot) rink.”
To ensure the initiative continued successfully, the community established their own association in 2005 to fundraise for the rink and a few other neighbourhood events.
“This rink has been a big hit with families in the neighbourhood. We are very strict with our rules and we’ve got great kids,” Harrington said.
Children under 12 must be accompanied to the rink by an adult, everyone under 21 must wear a helmet, and there’s a schedule for skating, family skates, and hockey to ensure equitable use of the rink for the community. Users are also asked to be off the ice by 9 p.m.
Volunteers help build up the rink at the beginning of the season and tear it down at the end. They always welcome help shovelling snow off the ice and cleaning up around the property.
Harrington said they also ask members of the community to keep an eye out to ensure rules are being followed, and request that parents don’t just drop their young children off and leave.
“We aren’t there all the time, and we don’t want to be ... It’s about empowering the people,” he said. “We don’t mind doing this, but please follow the rules and if others are not don’t be afraid to tell them.”
@$:As they improve the rink, association members require additional funds beyond what they receive from HRM and fundraising. This year, new rink boards were installed and Harrington said they’re hoping local businesses will provide donations in exchange for advertising on those boards.
“We’ve had some good neighbourhood businesses step up and give a donation, and we’ll ask if they want to put a sign up. A lot of these donations come first,” Harrington said. “We don’t need a lot... But if we did have money we could spend more on infrastructure.”
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“It’s a cute little rink, down in a hollow. It’s beautiful there at night,” Harrington said. “It’s busy too. Once we open it, within an hour it’s flooded with people.”