When I grew up in western Canada the four most important buildings in every small town were the school, the curling rink, the Wheat Board silo and the hockey arena. If anyone of those facilities closed it could be the death knell of that community.
While there are no Wheat Board silos in Ontario the importance of the arena, school and curling club are just the same. They are a sign of community vigor and health.
Buckhorn is currently going through heated discussions about what to do with their community built and volunteer run arena. Built twelve years ago as an outdoor facility only, and then improved to a facility with walls not too long after that, the arena has become a “very important” feature of life in Trent Lakes.
Community volunteers are justifiably proud of the $415,000 they raised to build the facility that they have today, and will tell anyone who will listen about the generous donation of the Zamboni by a local resident to the facility with no strings attached.
The arena has possessed natural ice since it opened. The facility has always been at the mercy of Mother Nature and as Mayor of Trent Lakes Janet Clarkson said “global warming has made the facility almost unusable.”
This winter ice was not in until January, and since the initial ice was installed they have lost it twice when temperatures have risen to unseasonable highs. Clarkson believes that within five seasons without the ability to make artificial ice the building will be obsolete and overtaxed volunteers will simply walk away. The next closest areas are in Lakefield, and few from Trent Lakes want to travel that far for a pleasure skate.
Clarkson believes it is time that the arena upgrades to a refrigeration unit that will allow the arena to be used reliably throughout the winter months with artificial ice. The Mayor said that volunteers have been actively involved in the potential planning and costing for the unit, and she believes that grant money is available for the project. Clarkson is thrilled that a $50,000 donation has already been received for the project, and believes that without too much arm twisting that even more donations could be found locally. Clarkson said that after the refrigeration plant installation that the arena could be managed by one full time staff member, so that long term staffing costs should not be an issue.
Much to Clarkson’s disappointment there is active opposition in Trent Lakes to the arena improvement plans, and the Mayor admits “she is taking a beating on this issue and that she doesn’t understand the opposition to this community facility being improved.”
I contacted Trent Lakes residents who expressed concerns about the project and their opposition hangs on a number of very important concerns which include:
1. Cost – as much as a million dollars has been bandied about as the final cost for the upgrade
2. Land ownership – the land the arena sits on is not owned by the Township. It sits on land owned by the Buckhorn Community Centre
3. User ship – no firm numbers exist regarding community usage beyond anecdotal reports that the arena is “well used”
4. Parochialism – many people in the outlying areas of Trent Lakes resent the concentration of municipal and community facilities in Buckhorn
5. CAO – the Trent Lakes CAO would like to do a formal user study before any decision is made
6. Conflict of interest – some in the community see a conflict of interest with the Mayor advocating for the program at the same time her husband is one of the prime movers behind the arena improvements.
Mayor Clarkson recognizes there are opponents to the arena plan and fears the arena plan will be stalled, but she points out “that the Township has a healthy reserve”, and that Mother Nature “has made this upgrade necessary.”
It will be interesting where this issue goes as the citizens of Trent Lakes begin to contemplate perhaps life without an arena.