New Brunswick

Skaters can lace up and hit N.B trails at new outdoor venues this winter

Just in time for New Brunswick’s Level 3 lockdown, at least a couple of communities opened new outdoor skating trails this week.

Moncton and Neguac open ice loops around municipal parks

Grade 8 students used the Neguac ice trail last winter for gym class. (Submitted by Village of Neguac)

Just in time for New Brunswick's Level 3 lockdown, at least a couple of communities opened new outdoor skating trails this week.

Moncton's Centennial Park has a new 400-metre trail where its old beach used to be. And Neguac has a newly expanded skating trail in Richelieu Park.

"During the pandemic it's kind of great," said Neguac Mayor Georges Savoie, "because it's a place where people can get out and enjoy the fresh air while distancing."

Neguac, a village at the southern end of the Acadian Peninsula, has expanded its skating trail. (Village of Neguac/Facebook)

Skating is one of the few athletic activities allowed over the next couple of weeks, along with other individual sports such as skiing — as long as distance is maintained from those outside the skater's household bubble. 

"As a community, I think we miss that opportunity to go out and do winter activities as a group," said Dan Hicks, Moncton's director of park operations.

"Our goal for winter rec is to do everything we can to make these opportunities happen." 

A couple of the many skaters who used the trail in Neguac last winter. (Francois Vigneault/Radio-Canada)

The new Muskrat Trail in Centennial Park has a little shack at the entrance, where people can sit down to put on their skates and store their boots in cubbyholes.

The ice trail is 12 feet, or 3.65 metres, wide and 400 metres long.

Moncton's parks director says building the ice has been a challenge, but easier now that there are snow banks to contain the flooding. (City of Moncton/Facebook)

It's shaped in a loop that follows the contours of what used to be the beach area.

The rink that used to be near the park entrance is gone now, but there's still a hockey rink adjacent to the playground.

Planning for the new skating trail started a year and a half ago, said Hicks, and the idea was well-received in community consultations.

People used to have a lot of fun skating on the pond at the park, he said, but haven't been able to do so safely for a number of years, because of the wider temperature fluctuations and more frequent melts that have come with climate change.

"Mother Nature really dictates what we can and cannot do."

City of Moncton bulk water trucks were used to flood the ice trail in Centennial Park. (City of Moncton/Facebook)

This is the third time this winter that city staff have built the ice, he said, and the first time it's stayed cold long enough for the trail to open. 

"It's been really challenging with the ups and downs in the weather.

"You get a couple of cold days then you get plus 12 or 14 with rain and all the hard work you put in washes away."

Rain is forecast for the area again next week.

Masks have to be worn while skating on the trail. (Village of Neguac/Facebook)

"Enjoy it while you can," said Hicks.

"The motto I've been using for the last couple of years is carpe diem. Enjoy the moment. Seize the day."

Temperatures can usually be counted on to be colder in northern New Brunswick, but the weather is a challenge for ice makers in Neguac, too, said Mayor Savoie.

Smooth, freshly flooded ice on the Neguac skating trail last March. (Village of Neguac/Facebook)

They hope to keep their skating trail going for a month or month and a half, he said.

This is the third year for the trail. But Richelieu Park recently expanded to more than twice its former size. So the ice trail was able to expand too to about 300 metres.

The loop meanders through the trees and various other park features.

The skating trail meanders between the park features. (Village of Neguac/Facebook)

The project was an idea that came from village staff, said Savoie, adding he was "amazed" at the work they've done on it.

They've tried different ways to maintain the ice, he said, and have gotten pretty good at it.

"I think they've got it pretty well mastered," Savoie said. "We don't have a Zamboni on it, but they have water and hoses, like in the old days, and they're doing pretty good based on the responses we're getting."

The trail is accessible day or night, said the mayor of Neguac. (Village of Neguac/Facebook)

In the beginning village officials thought "a few people" might use the trail. It's proven to be very popular.

Even before the ice was in, said Savoie, families started visiting the park in November and December to see all the decorations.

Neguac Mayor Georges Savoie says families have been visiting the park since before the ice was in to see the new decorations. (Village of Neguac/Facebook)

Local businesses donated $8,000 to improve the display this year, he said.

The colourful lights and brightly painted plywood characters add to the pleasure of skating in the park, said Savoie.

A walking path has also been added alongside the skating trail.

So if you go there with your grandkids they can skate and you can walk beside them, he said.

A walking trail has been added alongside the Neguac skating trail this winter. (Village of Neguac/Facebook)

The skating trail itself adds a little something to the village's winter tourism offerings, said the mayor.

One of its other main attractions, smelt fishing, is also under way, with the season's accompanying feasts.

Now, when people go to Neguac to enjoy "the best smelts in the country," said Savoie, they can also go for a skate.

With files from Information Morning Moncton