From left Debbie Shatraw Paul Rowbottom and Mary-Ellen Coghlan have lunch together at the volunteer appreciation event in Haliburton on Sunday afternoon.

Volunteers heed call to keep outdoor spaces in Highlands East open 

By Sue Tiffin

Published Jan. 16 2018

Volunteers have stepped forward in Highlands East to make sure the community’s access to a tobogganing hill and outdoor skating rinks continues – but the weather has been significantly less co-operative.

In December property supervisor Jim Alden submitted a report to council regarding the need for time-intensive daily maintenance of outdoor ice rinks and tobogganing space to avoid liability as recommended by the municipality’s insurance provider.

At that time Alden’s report said smaller municipalities like Highlands East don’t have the staffing nor the volunteer base to properly maintain the outdoor spaces to the level of safety required by the municipality’s insurance provider especially depending on weather that can fluctuate quickly between routine staff inspections.

Alden said his team could take on the list of responsibilities each week but that daily maintenance would be difficult during a season when they’re also taking care of duties such as unpredictable snow removal needs elsewhere.

His – and councils – hope was that volunteers might step forward to help assist the township in ensuring minimum requirements based on recommendations were met.

“We’ve had volunteers that have come forward” said Shannon Hunter Highlands East CAO on Jan. 12.

“[Alden] has met with the volunteers he’ll be ensuring that they have the adequate training on what we need to have inspected but of course weather has played havoc. So it may end up being a moot point now.”

Hunter said rainy conditions this month had likely depleted most of the ice necessary for the rinks to be functional but that the tobogganing hill had “use at your own risk” signage posted as was mandated and would be available albeit to potentially slushy rides.

She was enthusiastic about the future of the outdoor spaces because of trained volunteers being at the ready.

“It was really good seeing the community’s volunteers have stepped forward to assist” she said.

Highlands East is home to outdoor rinks in Gooderham and Cardiff and a tobogganing hill in Cardiff.

Meanwhile indoor ice rentals at Keith Tallman Memorial Arena in Wilberforce that had been decreasing over the past few years showed a jump in the month of December with a 15-hour increase from 2016 to 70.5 hours in December 2017.