Kemptville Creek Skateway aiming to be ready for next week, larger than 2021

While one famous skateway, the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, opened on Friday, another lesser-known skateway on Kemptville Creek is inching closer to the same.

"For some reason the ice and waterway hadn't been cleared for about three decades so it's something I've always wanted to bring back," said Kemptville resident Herb Cloutier.

He skated on the creek as a child at Curry Park. Last winter, Cloutier went to town council, proposing to revive the outdoor rink with a community grant, which was approved.

"The very next few weeks after that, we started building ice," Cloutier said.

Cloutier also had other plans for the area - a Winter Carnival - but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic put a quick halt to that idea.

While the small rink only ran for 17 days in January and February, it was a success, with families eager to enjoy skating on the waterway once again.

"We had just such a variety of users last year," said North Grenville mayor Nancy Peckford. "People who knew how to skate, people who were learning how to skate, kids in strollers and sleds, so it was really an all inclusive fun way to get outdoors and enjoy the heart of our community."

This year the site has been expanded - it's almost five times larger, approximately 200-by-700 feet.

"It's like mini Rideau Canal, that's exactly what it is," Cloutier said with a laugh. "We've got new lights set up by the municipality and the council, and staff have been just amazing to help out on this."

"The municipality have been working on this for about four days now and it's going to probably take another four days, five days until it gets smooth enough that we can possibly see some skating on it possibly by next weekend," Cloutier said.

The municipality even built a makeshift Zamboni to use on it.

"The end result is going to be better than using the hose because it's going to be a nice conditioned surface," said North Grenville facilities superintendent Joe Petschenig.

"Our goal is to provide a great sheet of ice for the residents of North Grenville and the community as a whole," he added.

"We're making some good progress today, anything below minus 10 we make some good progress," Petschenig said. "At night we definitely make some good progress with the sun not beating down on the surface."

"I know we're in a competition with the canal here in downtown Ottawa but we do have a different surface here and different considerations to play with but we're working hard to get it done hopefully for next week."

"There's a lot of nostalgia around skating on this creek from people who grew up here," said Peckford. "The creek is really cherished, it's right in the heart of old town Kemptville."

Cloutier will maintain the site once it opens with the help of about 15 volunteers, and also has big plans to create that Winter Carnival when the pandemic ends.

"We have all of the planning done," he said. "It's a collaborative effort. I've got volunteers, I've got committee members on the Winter Carnival team that have put a lot of hours in and hopefully so far the residents really enjoy it."

For now, it's just a waiting game until the ice is thick enough for skating, shiny and even some curling matches which will be allowed.

"It's very heartwarming for me as a long-time resident here to see people come and enjoy our natural waterway in a really environmental way," Cloutier added. "It's just so great to see kids and families come out of all ages and enjoy our central waterway."

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