Tofino’s council chambers remain closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, but instructions on how to watch meetings live online can be found on the district’s website at (Westerly file photo)

Tofino aims to combat winter doldrums with temporary ice rink

District prepares to install temporary ice rink in RV parking lot in December

Lace up your skates West Coast, an ice rink is coming to Tofino next month.

During a Nov. 5 special meeting, Tofino’s municipal council approved a recommendation from their staff to set up a temporary ice-rink in the town’s RV parking lot, adjacent to the municipal hall, in December.

“With many of the usual Tofino winter events not taking place due to COVID-19 related restrictions, there’s not a lot going on in December,” explained Tofino’s manager of public spaces, cultural and visitor initiatives April Froment.

In a written report presented to council, Froment noted that 2020 has been a “unique year,” with cancelled events and social distancing measures dampening the usually vibrant summer season. She added that the town’s tourists have largely chosen to stay near their resorts, rather than venturing into the community’s downtown core.

“Tofino businesses are still recovering from, what was for many, devastating economic impacts of a months-long spring 2020 COVID-19 closure period. With many of the usual Tofino winter events and activities not taking place due to COVID-19 related restrictions, December’s typically lively calendar of events is looking to be unusually quiet,” she wrote. “There is an acknowledged lack of rainy season activities in Tofino for residents and visitors alike, as well as a general lack of covered outdoor public space. This deficit has been highlighted by COVID-19 and physical distancing requirements.”

She said an outdoor rink with COVID-19 protocols in place could provide a safe and positive, physically distanced, activity for both residents and visitors to enjoy.

She said the rink would cost roughly $9,000, including a large supply of skates and skate sharpening equipment, to rent for a six week period and a tent to keep skaters out of the rain would cost $12,000 to rent.

“The tent rental is the most expensive part of the project and I think that just speaks to how covered space is something that’s really in demand right now and something that we may want to look at building something more permanent down the road, not necessarily at this location, but in our community, so that we can host these type of events without incurring this sort of ongoing rental costs,” she said.

She added that the project would be paid for through Resort Municipality Initiative funding and said other RMI communities have brought in temporary ice rinks, citing Harrison Hot Springs as an example.

“I’m very strongly in support of it,” said Coun. Britt Chalmers.

“I think this is a fantastic idea,” echoed Coun. Tom Stere, who asked if the rink rental could be extended into the New Year.

Froment responded that the district could keep the rink longer, “if it was wildly popular through December,” but noted that would increase the cost.

Coun. Al Anderson asked if it would be more cost effective for Tofino to buy it’s own tent, rather than pay large rental costs.

Froment responded that maintaining a tent would be overly cumbersome on district staff.

“The district did own a tent at one time and it’s not as easy as one would think. The tents are very large, they’re often put up in the rain, they need to be dried out thoroughly or they do tend tend to mold and mildew,” she said. “There’s a lot of maintenance involved with it and what we found was that the staff time involved with erecting the tent, taking the tent down, storing the tent and maintaining the tent was prohibitive and we found that staff were just not putting up the tent for district events.”

Coun. Andrea McQuade said she was happy to see RMI funding being used for the initiative.

“I thought this was just such a thoughtful project that really broached both sides of the tourism and the community vibe…This is something that both our community and our tourists can take advantage of,” she said.

“I really felt that, when speaking with people that were in support, they were just really excited that this also looked like it was for them and not just for tourism and, I think, that’s a really nice balance when we’re using this type of money.”

McQuade also agreed with Froment about the town’s lack of covered recreational space.

“I think that looking at more permanent covered space in our community is definitely going to be one of our goals,” she said.

andrew.bailey@westerlynews.caLike us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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