Township takes over Bissell Park project

ELORA – The group that received funding to replace the multi-use pad in Elora’s Bissell Park has handed the project back to the township.

Council heard at its committee of the whole meeting on Aug. 14 that the project is too big for the volunteer groups who applied for and received $350,000 from the Jack R. MacDonald fund in 2018.

The Elora Rockers and the Elora Lions Club submitted the original application, which included an ice pad surrounded by boards and a loop around the perimeter for casual skating.

Back in 2018, the township had plans to add refrigeration under the pad at a future date.

At the meeting on Monday, Tom Keating, representing the Elora Rockers, said the expertise required is beyond what the volunteers can do.

“We thought sweat equity (with volunteers) would work, but there’s not a lot we can do with volunteers,” he told council.

“We still want to be part of this project. We still want to be part of the design. And we’re still willing to roll up our sleeves.”

The group did some fundraising in the interim and proposed turning it all over to the township – a total of $413,000 – if the township would take over the project.

Managing director of community services Pat Newson said adding refrigeration for the ice pad is in the 2025 budget forecast and as that date is fast approaching, there are savings to be had if the project is done all at one time.

She proposed adding $100,000 to the 2024 budget to hire a consultant to draw up firm plans for the site, including public consultation, assessing the soil under the existing pad, and designing the finished product.

John Scott of Green Lanes, an active transportation group, cautioned council about adding boards to the rink.

He said boards are a barrier to the rink and will make it harder for young children, seniors and those who aren’t confident skaters to give skating a try.

“A skating pad could create social cohesion. It’s available to everyone,” he said.

“A large rink with no boards would be welcoming and available to everyone.

“Hockey can exclude people and leads to competition.”

It’s a change in thinking for himself, Scott said, acknowledging that 20 years ago he would have been all for an outdoor rink for hockey.

This new thinking comes from research he’s read on social interactions and making connections with strangers.

“Putting boards up minimizes other uses,” he said. “With boards there’s a greater chance of aggression happening.”

Newson pointed out the pad is on a slope and the boards are necessary to contain the ice. And councillors said new skaters rely on boards as they learn to skate.

Council approved the staff recommendation to:

  • terminate the existing agreement with the Elora Rockers and the Elora Lions Club;
  • put the funds in a reserve fund for Bissell Park improvements;
  • hire a consultant to design the pad;
  • form a working group consisting of the Elora Rockers, the Elora Lions, township staff and the healthy communities advisory committee; and
  • seek public comment through Connect CW.

“Once this gets going, that’s where people can provide feedback,” Newson said.