Ideas for outdoor winter recreation in North Dundas

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When it comes to winter recreation, few things are more Canadian than skating. North Dundas has an abundance of skating opportunities. Both Winchester and Chesterville have indoor skating rinks, used for both public skating and for local hockey games. Four smaller North Dundas towns – Morewood, Inkerman, Hallville and South Mountain – have outdoor skating rinks. 

It’s not often that the smaller towns are the luckiest, but some feel that’s the case when it comes to the outdoor rinks. There is a certain appeal to outdoor skating rinks. Sure, they aren’t nearly as well maintained and are susceptible to poor weather conditions, but they are also typically more private due to less frequent use, meaning they present a great opportunity for families to teach little ones how to skate, or get an ad hoc game of hockey going. An argument could also be made that bored teens are more likely to use an outdoor rink with a few friends, as opposed to the much more public (and perhaps overly supervised) setting of an indoor rink. 

Winchester resident Kelly Windle, owner of The Planted Arrow Flowers and Gifts, thinks that an outdoor skating space would be a great addition to Winchester. Kelly’s husband Stefan ran for a Council seat in the October municipal election, largely running on a platform of bringing more recreational amenities to the Township. This comes as little surprise given that the couple has three young boys who will be teenagers a few years down the road. Recreation is important for children of any age, but teens need good recreational opportunities to stay out of trouble. While Stefan did not secure a seat in the election, he has continued to show a strong commitment to the community by spearheading recreational initiatives anyway, including the new Winchester Ontario Recreation Committee (WORC). 

Kelly has recently reached out to the Township’s Director of Recreation and Culture, Meaghan Meerburg, to ask about the possibility of an outdoor rink in Winchester. The response came back that if a spot was found to be available for an outdoor rink in Winchester, the cost for the required materials would be just over $63,000, not including boards, a fence, or a water supply, and assuming that volunteers would be willing to make the project a success. 

Another idea that drew immense popularity from social media users was the idea of creating North Dundas’ own version of the Rideau Canal skateway by cleaning the ice on the South Nation River between the Cass Bridge conservation area site south of Winchester town limits, and the town of Chesterville to the east. The project could in theory be extended to the town of South Mountain to the west as well, but not any further east past Chesterville owing to the dam in town. The South Nation River is sourced by a spring southwest of North Dundas. It flows across the entire Township and other municipalities before emptying into the Ottawa River in the Plantagenet area. Such a resource already presents great recreational opportunities in the summer, such as kayaking – why not consider its use for family fun in the winter months as well?

The South Nation River at Bridge St. in South Mountain, looking east. It is possible to travel in this direction along the river continuously through the southern outskirts of Winchester and into the village of Chesterville. Many locals believe that when frozen, the river would make a great recreational skateway.

On this subject, Director Meerburg told Kelly, “We can potentially look at this project in a few years as there are many variables to it and unfortunately we don’t have the staff resources for the time being. It would be ideal if a community group would like to take on the research for the program and see if it could be a feasible project.”

In North Grenville, the “Kemptville Creek” has entered its third straight year of becoming a Rideau Canal style skateway in the winter. This project is a revival of an old tradition from decades ago. While much work and planning would need to be done to make the same thing possible in North Dundas, it is certainly an idea worth considering. Recreation planning only makes sense with the input of those who use the amenities, and that means it starts with average North Dundas residents like you and me. 

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