Laudan Park on the west edge of Okotoks has a new feature for outdoor winter fun.
In order to create another safe place to skate, the Town of Okotoks has flooded a loop around the ball diamond located at the park.
Christa Michailuck, parks manager for the Town of Okotoks, said the new skating surface was one the parks department wanted to do in past years, but a boon to their staffing this year allowed it to become a reality.
“This was an idea that some of our park staff had last winter, even before this pandemic, and we wanted to try something new to kind of encourage more outdoor leisure activities in Okotoks,” Michailuck said.
“This winter we gave it a try, and we ended up being able to create this 460-metre loop around the ball diamond down at Laudan Park.”
With the nearly flat area and space, in addition to the existing parking lot and toilet facilities, Michailuck said it was a perfect area to set up such a feature.
Additional staff had been reassigned from other departments underutilized during COVID-19 restrictions bolstered parks roster.
“Preparing outdoor rinks can be a challenge for park staff, in addition to the over 65 kilometres of pathway snow clearing that we have,” Michailuck added. “Unfortunately for rec, and fortunately for parks, we do have a few redeployed recreation services staff, some of them with ice-making experience.
“So that's been fabulous to help us with getting our outdoor rinks and the skating path prepared this year."
Michailuck added she believed it was the first year in her time with the Town that the parks department had their outdoor rinks ready and skatable before Christmas as a result of the extra staff, despite warm weather.
As with many public facilities, there are restrictions in place as to how many people can be on the ice at any time due to COVID-19 distancing requirements.
“The capacity on the skating pathway down at Laudan Park is 40 people and we just ask people to respect that and remain physically distanced with members beyond their immediate household,” Michailuck said.
Families were able to enjoy the track while keeping distanced over the weekend of Jan. 9, including Adrienne LeCorre and her daughters who tried it out on the Saturday.
“This is our first time down here, but it appears to be incredibly safe and easy to space yourself out,” said LeCorre.
“It’s great that the town has done this to provide people with the opportunity to get outside, stay active, and be happy.”
Located just west of downtown on Highway 549 before the rail crossing, the park already boasts cross-country ski tracks and a walking path through the frozen wetland.