Challenging start to WC ODR season

CORKERY – Volunteers across West Carleton are ecstatic to see some consistent cold weather this week. It means the blood, sweat and tears they have been pouring in to West Carleton’s outdoor rinks, won’t end up as a puddle of former ice by the end of the day.

It has been a challenging start, to say the least, to West Carleton’s outdoor rink season. Volunteers in Corkery, Galetta, Constance Bay, Fitzroy Harbour, Kinburn and Carp have worked tirelessly to get the green flag flying at their outdoor rinks. Often four late nights of work only provide them with one day of quality ice before warm weather, rain and snow move in for the ODR kill.

West Carleton Online spoke with Corkery’s rink boss Andrew McIsaac Saturday, Jan. 25, also known as Hockey Day in Corkery, to get the inside scoop about the ODR season so far.

As Grammy Award-winning pop musician Meghan Trainor knows, it’s all about that base.

“When you have a good base on it, whenever it rains or snows or whatever, it’s hard for Mother Nature to get rid of it,” McIsaac, who is also the Corkery Community Association (CCA) board vice president, said. “That’s the whole idea. The main goal there is to make sure we can come back from that bad weather.”

Unfortunately, after a good start in December for rink weather, things changed.

“It’s been tough,” MacIsaac said, hoping to get through Hockey Day in Corkery before the expected rain, freezing rain and snow hit later that same afternoon. “We built it up real nice, it was perfect weather to start, we got a real nice base, we got it running for Christmas and a few days after that, and then we got hit with a bunch of rain and warm weather. We built it back up a second time, had it open for a day, and then it got warm again. It’s been up and running now for about 10 days in a row. Now we’re getting a blast of snow again tonight, freezing rain first, we’ll take the freezing rain, that stuff’s no problem. Better than rain. Rain is the worst. That will kill the ice real quick. We got 20 centimetres coming tonight (Jan. 25), that will be a rough day tomorrow, let’s put it that way.”

West Carleton’s team of rink volunteers are often members of their respective community associations as well. McIsaac, who moved to the area in 2011, has been an active member of the CCA since 2014 beginning as coordinator of the spring Clean-Up Day. He has been vice president of the board since 2014 and has served as the head volunteer, coordinator and rink boss since 2015. McIsaac says he has been a rink volunteer for the last five years and the rink boss for the last three.

Most local ODR volunteers have their own tricks and tools for laying a perfect sheet of ice.

“We do have a tractor that comes out and does most of the work for us, but we have to come out and finish it off and it is more work than you think even with the help of a tractor,” he said. “Trying to get it right back down to the ice. Bits of rain and snow to start with and your fighting with a layer of Styrofoam-like stuff to deal with, that stuff that forms on the top of the ice. That can get hard on the back.”

Despite the challenging weather, McIsaac thinks the Corkery ODR is in good shape now.

“The base is set pretty nice now, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about it melting away now before the end of the season,” he said. “We have had that happen in past years. A two-day spell of plus-five weather, a two-day spell of rain, and dealing with bare asphalt and having to build it back up again. I think we’re going to be good right to the end of the season. We have about five or six inches of base, so it’s going to be pretty resilient.”

When West Carleton Online spoke with McIsaac last Saturday, it was the end of a week of daytime weather in the pluses.

“If it’s about one or two degrees during the day but goes down to minus three or four during the night, it’ll stay,” he said. “As long as there isn’t rain. So last week we didn’t really flood it a whole lot, but definitely we were scraping it quite a bit. Last night it was just cold enough for a very light flood, and me and the volunteers were out here and we scraped it really well, got rid of as much snow and ice shavings as possible and put a light flood on with our rink rake (a specialty tool the team made to make rink life a little easier).”

So, the ice was in perfect shape for Corkery’s winter celebration, Hockey Day in Corkery.

“It turned out really nice last night,” McIsaac said. “You have to play it by ear, you have to get a feel for it. You aim for flooding around, the ideal temperature is around minus-seven. That way it freezes by the time you get to the end and you can put a second coat on it. But last night when we flooded it was about minus-one, minus-two, so it was frozen yet by the time we finished the first flood. It will freeze, you just have to leave it be for five or six hours. To make that good contact with the layer below it.”

It’s not just wet weather that can cause problems – the sun brings its own set of issues too.

“The sun does chew it up a bit,” McIsaac said. “Here the sun travels from one end of the rink to the other. So, the far side of the rink from the community centre is fine, but the other side, there can be an inch, half-inch gap between the boards and the ice. The sun warms up the boards and that melts the ice. All these little things, you start to learn with this rink.”

McIsaac also gives credit to super-volunteer and CAA director of operations Peter KleinBeernink who McIsaad says has been the deputy rink boss for the last two years.

“I’m not a deputy anything,” KleinBeernink stresses from the community centre kitchen.

When West Carleton Online visited Hockey Day in Corkery, the free skate was just finishing up and things were getting ready for a busy afternoon. Before the storm.

“We got three pots of chili here, we’re hoping a lot more people come by here, usually the shinny starts around 1 p.m.” McIsaac said. “We opened it up a little early today.”

McIsaac says the rink is a popular spot during the winter and you can’t really pick one time to come out.

“Honestly it depends on the weather,” he said. “After school for sure, Saturdays are the big day, Sundays are pretty good too, it all depends on the weather. If it’s too cold you tend to see some people drop off, we were pretty busy here last night (Jan. 24), Friday nights are a big time. Thursday night there were about 30 people on the rink.”

The CCA hires youth to act as rink supervisors. While the job of rink boss sounds like a thankless position, the community does show its appreciation at times.

“One of the local kids drew us a poster here for our Sunday morning skating lessons,” McIsaac said pointing at the artwork. “That made me feel pretty good.”

The CCA also rents out the rink for those interested in a skate with friends.

“You can rent the rink whenever you want,” McIsaac said. “There’s a form on the website you can fill out to do that, costs a couple of bucks and basically covers the cleaning of the community centre, and you can have the ice to yourself. There hasn’t been as many rentals this year as compared to last year, it’s been a struggle to get the good ice, so maybe people think the ice just isn’t ready yet.”

While the time for the good ice is nearly over, McIsaac is hoping for a cold February too.

“It’s usually January that’s the best month,” he said. “Most years the rink is done by the third week of February. Last year was a really good year. Last year we put the ice in, and it basically stayed. We didn’t have to fight anything. A couple of years ago, when a couple of others were running the rink, they put 50 hours in one week to get the base done and then it rained the whole next week. You start to figure it out. You have to look at the two week forecast, you have to make a plan and if it looks like your effort is going to be worth it and your going to get a couple of days out of it, you do it.”