Kemptville Creek Skateway aims to be ready for next week, bigger than 2021

KEMPVILLE, ONT. — As a famous skateway, the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, opened Friday, another lesser-known skateway on Kemptville Creek is closing in.

“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 in Curry Park as a child. Last winter, Cloutier went to the city council with the proposal to breathe new life into the outdoor track with a municipal subsidy, which was approved.

“Over the next few weeks, we started building ice,” Cloutier said.

Cloutier also had other plans for the area — a winter carnival — but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic put an end to that idea.

Kemptville Cree

Although the small rink only ran for 17 days in January and February, it was a success, with families eager to get back to skating on the waterway.

“We had such a variety of users last year,” said Nancy Peckford, mayor of North Grenville. “People who knew how to skate, people who learned to skate, kids in prams and sleds, so it was a really all-inclusive fun way to get out and enjoy the heart of our community.”

This year, the site has expanded — it’s nearly five times larger, about 200 by 700 feet.

“It’s like a mini Rideau Canal, that’s exactly what it is,” Cloutier said with a laugh. “We’ve had new lights put in by the council and the council, and the staff has been great to help with this.”

“The council has been working on this for about four days now and it will probably be another four days, five days before it gets so smooth that we may be able to skate on it some next weekend,” Cloutier said.

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

The Kemptville Creek

“The end result will be better than using the hose because it will be a nicely conditioned surface,” said Director Joe Petschenig, North Grenville’s Superintendent.

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

“We are making good progress today, anything below minus 10 we are making good progress,” said Petschenig. “At night we certainly make good progress when the sun is not shining on the surface.”

“I know we’re in competition with the canal here in downtown Ottawa, but we have a different surface here and different considerations to play with, but we’re working hard to hopefully get it done next week.”

“There’s a lot of nostalgia about skating this creek from people who grew up here,” Peckford said. “The creek is really cherished. It’s 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’ve done all the planning,” he said. “It’s a collaborative effort. I have volunteers, I have committee members on the Winter Carnival team who have put in a lot of hours and hopefully the residents have enjoyed it so far.”

For the time being, we have to wait until the ice is thick enough to skate, shine and even play some curling matches.

“It’s very heartwarming to me as a long-time resident here to see people come and enjoy our natural waterway in a really eco-friendly way,” Cloutier added. “It’s just so wonderful to see children and families of all ages come and enjoy our central waterway.”

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