Red Deer takes its fair share of flak for a lot of things, but there's one thing it deserves credit for: its rec facilities.
Yes, we need a new pool, one suitable for hosting national competitions, one that would prevent the embarrassing scenario of needing to look to Calgary to host synchronized swimming during the 2019 Red Deer-hosted Canada Winter Games.
But this city does need to get its due. Winter rolls around, temperatures dip, snow falls, and no fewer than 62 outdoor rinks, three ponds and one speed skating oval open up for the public's FREE enjoyment.
I only moved to Red Deer from BC a little more than two years ago. I grew up in the lower mainland where it never got even close to cold enough for there to be even one outdoor rink. There were very brief periods (not every winter) where a pond might freeze over enough to safely skate on, but the charm and Canadiana of skating outdoors usually wasn't an option.
Try to imagine my amazement upon learning what Red Deer offers.
On Thursday, the City of Red Deer announced it was closing all outdoor ice surfaces due to warm temperatures. A sad trombone played in the five-hole of my mind. But it got me thinking of the winter that was.
Not only did I finally get out to skate on one of this city's outdoor rinks, and not only did I skate with refugees on Bower Ponds, but my daughter skated on an outdoor rink for the first time.
In fact, it was her first time skating, period.
The skates are a tad too big. We got them for $5 off a Facebook buy and sell. We gave them to her for Christmas, and if it weren't for the persistent cold we experienced this season, my wife and I would've taken her out a lot sooner than the end of January. I was just itching to take her out. I'd literally been holding onto those skates for her for the better part of a year.
At the end of our street, there are two rinks, one boarded and one not, which is awesome because if there are people playing hockey on the one, the other is still free. It was without a doubt one of the proudest moments I've had as a father to be able to take my two-year-old skating for the first time.
That moment wouldn't have been possible without the many hours put into setting up these rinks and the commitment from the City to have them maintained regularly. We are lucky to live in a city with those kinds of recreational opportunities, though there's always room for improvement. What that might include isn't up to me, but you can let your city councillors know if there's something you think this city needs.
Regardless, I think we should be grateful for two things: the facilities we have and the memories they create.
Skating, skiing, golf, great trails, we can do all this and more right here in Red Deer. Sometimes I think we take it for granted.
As for the outdoor ice, perfecting the little one's stride, the communal shovelling of snow off the rink, the rush of wind in your ears, a wrist shot top shelf, and the sudden jolt of adrenaline you get when you think you heard a slight crack while skating on Bower Ponds – I’ll see you again next winter.
PS. Credit to my wife for being there to capture those precious moments with our daughter.
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