Campobello Island kids enjoy skating for first time on homemade ice rink

Submitted photo Daphne Carten, principal at Campobello Island Consolidated School, along with her husband, who is also the head custodian at the school, took advantage of the cold temperatures last month and created a skating rink near the school’s soccer field. Carten said this was the first time some kids had ever had a chance to learn how to skate, and she was excited that she was able to give them the opportunity.

Campobello – What do you do when there is no skating rink in your area and your kids are looking for some ice time? If you are Daphne Carten, principal at Campobello Island Consolidated School, you take matters into your own hands and build your own temporary outdoor skating rink. In years past, they have bused students to a nearby pond to skate on occasion when it was frozen, but this year Carten decided they needed to have something closer to the school.

“Whenever we get a winter where it’s cold enough for an extended period of time, we like to do things involving skating with the kids,” said Carten. “We had a year a few years ago where there was a pond, kind of on the main road. We would put the kids on the bus and take them up to that. It wasn’t as convenient as having it closer, because we would always have to book the bus.”

Carten said Campobello doesn’t seem to get many winters that have cold stretches long enough to be able to create outdoor skating rinks, so she was thrilled to be able to take advantage of the below-freezing temperatures this year. There isn’t a permanent skating facility on Campobello, so for many kids, this is the first time they have had a chance to strap on a pair of skates.

“We don’t get very many winters on Campobello where it’s good for skating. A lot of the kids haven’t had much opportunity to skate in their lives because of that.”

Carten looked at the weather forecast in January, and saw that the temperatures were going to be low enough to be able to build a temporary rink. So, she talked to her husband Brent, who is the head custodian at the school, and asked him if he thought they could do it. He said he thought it could happen, so the pair got to work at creating the rink for the students and the rest of the community to use.

“Between him and I, we packed down the snow and put the water on,” said Carten. “He’s done a lot more in upkeep than I have. He’ll come down after they’re done skating at night and flood it again so it’s good for the next day.”

Because they put the rink in the parking lot next to the soccer field, which has lights, they have been able to have the rink open during the evenings for people to use. They turn on the lights once it gets dark out so kids can enjoy night time skating. Carten said having the rink has been wonderful, and the kids are loving being able to do something that they normally don’t have access to.

“It’s been a great success. They love it, and a lot of the kids that have never skated before have learned to skate. That was really exciting for us.”

So, how much work goes into creating an outdoor skating rink? Carten said she went out with a pair of snowshoes on and tamped down the snow. Then, she and her husband put water on it, and tamped it down some more. They kept repeating this process for approximately two weeks until they had a perfectly smooth surface about the size of a swimming pool that was optimal for skating.

“It wouldn’t have taken us that long, but there were a couple of days that were really warm and kind of slowed us down a little bit,” said Carten. “It took about two weeks of going out several times a day and putting water on and shoveling the snow and filling in holes. We just worked away at it. I know some places have used a tarp, where they just put a tarp down and flood it. But, we wanted it to be fairly big, so we just decided to do it the old-fashioned way, turning the snow into ice and working at it from that way.”

The area that the rink was created on is not perfectly flat, so that created a bit of additional work for the crew that was creating the rink. They had to build up the bottom part until the area was level, and once they were able to achieve a level surface, they kept flooding it with water to level it out even more. Carten said it took “quite a bit of flooding” to make this happen.

Last week was winter carnival week at the school, and Carten had hoped that the kids would be able to get out skating every day. Unfortunately, a couple of warm days put a damper on that plan. But, she is optimistic that there will yet be a few more skating days left before the rink melts away and becomes a parking lot once again. But, all was not lost, as the warmer temperatures made the snow ideal for creating snow sculptures.

“Hopefully over March break they’ll be able to get some more use out of it too.”

So, will there be an outdoor skating rink in Campobello’s future? Carten said as long as there is enough cold weather, she plans to continue doing this. She realizes that the temperatures on the Island may not be ideal for making skating rinks, but they will do it whenever they are able to.

“Any year that it’s cold enough, we’ll continue to try to do this. On Campobello, it seems we never seem to have enough cold weather in a stretch. I’ve been here 21 years now, and there’s been quite a few winters when we would not have below freezing temperatures long enough to actually make a decent sized rink.”

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca