Great Skate #24 - Couchiching Beach Park (Orillia)

Last Saturday I was at the Couchiching Beach Park skating rink in Orillia. It was the first time the Great Skate Project visited a rink that was actually on a lake. Unfortunately, it was a disappointment.

The weather was perfect - brilliant blue skies, lots of sunshine, crisp cold temperatures and no wind. It hadn’t snowed for a few weeks, but the landscape was still transformed by the snow that had fallen, drifted and been piled up earlier this winter. 

According to the City of Orillia website, the rink’s ice condition is “dependent on ice thickness.” That’s impressively obvious yet vague. “Not good” would have been a more accurate description.

The rink is a very big rectangle near the marina. The easiest access point is from the boat launch ramp, about 20 feet from the rink. 

When my dad and I got to the rink, there were just a few people there. The deepest snow had been cleared from the ice previously but there was still a thick layer of frost on the surface. Two guys had brought their own shovels and were doing their best, but it was tough going. Even when the ice was cleared, it was very rough and hard to skate on. 

Hey, City of Orillia, why not clean the ice and flood the rink every now and again? I know, it’s a pain trying to make the water hose to reach that far. But see those ice fishing huts out on the harbour? I bet those guys could show you another way to get the water you need.

OK, maybe rink maintenance shouldn’t be the top municipal priority. You’re still dealing with all that snow, after all.

So why not ask the civic booster clubs to lend a hand? The “welcome to Orillia” sign on the highway exit lists umpteen different service clubs. Surely some of them might be able to adopt the rink and keep it in good condition?

Failing that, why not put out a call for volunteers? Maybe there are some residents who appreciate the value that a free, outdoor skating rink offers to the community. They could set up a schedule and take turns clearing and flooding the ice. Afterwards, they could go out for drinks together and feel proud of their hard work. And then they could invite their friends and neighbours to a skating party, and word could spread about how great this rink is, and more people would come and enjoy themselves. Imagine how wonderful that would be.

I’ll be back in Orillia next weekend. Maybe the rink will be in better shape then.

A woman wearing a red coat and ice skates stands on a frozen lake


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