Plenty of foot traffic has christened the new ice rink at the Bob Lochhead Lions Memorial Park in Black Diamond so far in its inaugural year and already the Foothills Lions Club says they're going to bring it back again next year, only bigger and better.
"People have been very receptive," said rink vice-chair and campground chairman James Lee, offering his praise to the local fire departments and town councils of Black Diamond and Turner Valley for their participation. "It's been very positive."
Fellow Lion, rink committee chairman and Turner Valley Mayor Barry Crane said he, too, has received a lot of positive feedback.
"There's been huge public support and people love the fire pits and family atmosphere," he said Jan. 5.
Lee recalled an interaction with a young skater, maybe around the age of five.
"This little guy went flying through, fell. I scooped him back up onto his feet and he said to me, 'This is the best. I love this so much. My mom and dad are going to bring me down every day I can go,'" Lee said.
"The comments from people are absolutely heartwarming."
Crane said more and more people are exploring the rink, with around 120 people hitting the ice on Jan. 2, the one-day reprieve from a weeks-long cold snap that saw mercury drop into the low -20 C temperatures.
But Lee said he's noticed another perk from the project.
He said that membership at the Foothills Lions has seen significant growth with many younger people joining up. Lee credits this in part to the unique initiatives the club is taking on to better serve its community.
"The type of projects that you bring forward and promote certainly piques the interest of certain age groups," he said, noting the average age of new recruits is around that 35-45 mark.
The rink, which was designed with families in mind, offers a place to commune outside and enjoy a fire, picnic or cup of coffee, said Lee. And while hockey is not allowed on the rink, Lee and Crane noted there hasn't been any complaints.
"That need for a place like this is what drove us," said Lee, adding the increased club membership is a "lovely side effect for us."
The budget for the pilot project was set around $5,000, Crane said, but so far, it's only cost around $3,500, plus the financial and in-kind support from councils in Black Diamond and Turner Valley which he estimates at around $1,000 each.
"The biggest investment was in the first year," Crane said. "A lot of the materials will be reused next year."
Next year, he and Lee said, they're looking to collect more lights and decorations to make the area more cosy and inviting.
A callout to the public for donations of unwanted and used holiday lights and decor will be made in the near future. Crane said residents can drop off their donations at the campground's clubhouse.
The rink committee and service club are also keeping an eye on what the Okotoks chapter has done locally with its skating trail.
"It's so good to see all these service clubs engaging with council and communities to better meet the recreational needs of the community in COVID," Crane said.
As for the missing porta-potty, Crane insists it's a boring story.
After the Lions' portable loo was seemingly stolen in an alleged brazen theft discovered by Crane on Dec. 12, and a Facebook live where he urged those responsible to return it, Crane said the disappearance chalks up to miscommunication.
Long story short, the portable toilet was picked up by the company that owns the brand.
Crane said after a back-and-forth rigmarole with the company, local supplier T&T Disposal Services offered to rent out a porta potty at a generous $50 a month.
For skaters weathering the elements this weekend to enjoy a leisure skate, Crane said dress for the weather.
"In layers, preferably," he said. "And always be safe."
Lee offered his gratitude to the public for their continued support.
"It's why we do it and it's so gratifying to see people reaping the benefits," he said of the club's work on the rink. "This just makes our community a little more special."