Friday, November 20, 2009

Outdoor Skating Marathon?

OK, I know the water is still good for paddling, and I have been walking around in shirts, with running shoes on my feet. I am getting ahead of myself with this post but there is a method to my madness! Bear with me!

Last January I wrote a post about a skating Marathon that the town of Portland ON, hosted. Basically what they did was drive a Zamboni out onto the ice of the lake next to their town to create a skating track, and for the past six years, have had marathon races on the ice. Skaters of all levels could enter and try their hands(legs?) at skating races of various distances. This might be the nearest to the canals of Holland that most of us Canadians ever get. I should tell you right now that I have not participated in this event. Life gets in the way sometimes!

I grew up in the days of outdoor rinks and pond hockey. There were occasions when the streams flooded and froze and we could skate for miles on what were, normally, foot wide creeks, in what is now suburbs of Niagara Falls, ON. OK, I am showing my age. The point is that there isn't anything more 'Canadian' than skating outdoors on the frozen ponds and lakes. These days most of the kids in Southern Ontario have not seen the winters consistently cold enough to merit a backyard rink let alone to make the ice on the local lake, or pond safe enough. What the people of Portland did was put a bit of fun back into the Canadian winter.

One of the points that I made in last January's post was that other towns should copy the idea of Portland. I still think that if every town with the resources and a nearby suitable, safe body of ice were to do this we might soon see a whole circuit of skating races. For sure we would see a lot of simple outdoor family fun. If I lived in Toronto, and took the kids to a lake like Scugog, for example, for a day of outdoor skating, chances are I would take them to lunch and visit a few of the shops in the town as well. That was the gist of my post last winter.

Well this week I looked up the website for the Portland skating marathon and was sad to read that the volunteers that ran this event have decided to take this year off. I have to say I understand their point of view as volunteers. Six years is a long time and Portland is not a big town with a vast pool of volunteers to draw from.
However this leaves the same challenge out there for the small lakeside towns in southern Ontario looking for a way to draw in some tourist dollars in the coldest months of the winter.
I live in Bowmanville and we don't have a suitable lake next to us. Lake Ontario doesn't count! The nearest lake that would fit the bill is Lake Scugog and that is why I picked on Port Perry last year. I still think Port Perry should really look into this idea, but there are other towns with a lake beside them that could also do this.
And now here is the method to my madness. Now is the time for organizing. Get your town council moving and warm up the Zambonis. String the lights around the ice surface and lets get some outdoor skating going in southern Ontario again. As to the races, they would be the icing on the cake. Or might that be the icing on the ice!!

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