The skaters are out this winter across the South Cariboo.
A new outdoor rink in 100 Mile House has a huge draw since it opened in December on the former tennis courts of 100 Mile Junior, while small rinks can be spotted around the region – from Forest Grove to 103 Mile, Sulphurous Lake, Greeny Lake and Sepa Lake. Skaters also took advantage earlier this month of a cleared skating path on 108 Lake.
“For us up here our winters are long,” said Nadaya McNeil, the organizer behind the 100 Mile rink. “You’ve got to find something to do.”
McNeil said she is excited to see people hitting the ice this season, especially in 100 Mile. This is the first year for the outdoor rink, which received funding from the Cariboo Regional District’s South Cariboo Joint Committee as well as financial and in-kind support from the public and local businesses to get it started.
”It’s really going great. It was just so awesome to see so many people out there – sticks and pucks at one end and parents with toddlers at the other end,” McNeil said, noting she got out herself for a new year’s skate. “That was what I was envisioning. It made me really emotional. We want to see people use it.”
McNeil was inspired to push for a 100 Mile rink based on her fond memories of skating as a child on 103 Mile pond, which she said is cleared and maintained each year by a local resident “out of the goodness of his heart.”
“It was any age, any skill level, and it all just kind of worked for some reason,” she said. “I love that idea, just being a free-for-all.”
Although the mild winter has brought challenges in terms of ice, McNeil said people are taking advantage of the rink whenever they can. The same is true at Forest Grove rink, which has been around for 30 years, said Cole Abrams, who grew up skating on the rink and has maintained it for the past six years.
He said the public rink has seen a lot of action over the last two years and attributes its popularity partly to the fact its existence was included in the local school newsletter.
“Once that was out people started showing up,” he said. “It’s something for kids to do for free.”
Abrams said when he was young 15 to 20 youth would play hockey on the rink. Although children still use for 15 minutes or so at a time, he’s seeing more 10-12-year-olds shooting the pucks, sometimes for three hours or more.
“They’re more into it now than they ever were,” he said. “They can just give ‘er. It’s awesome. I love looking out the window and saying ‘look there are people we’ve never seen before.”
McNeil said the community has rallied behind the idea of the rink. “It’s really worthwhile and I’m really excited we were able to get it going this year,” she said. “It’s blown my mind how many people want to support this.”