The Huntsville Skating Club is urging town council to reopen the Summit Centre and install ice for September use as municipalities across Muskoka gradually restore access to community services and facilities.
The club drafted a letter on July 17 and encouraged their members to submit it to council after their season was cut short due to the pandemic. Many skaters were unable to complete tests or competitions, including skaters that worked hard to qualify for the Skate Ontario Provincials, said Michelle Breakenridge, vice president of the skating club. One of their coaches has offered virtual off-ice training throughout the pandemic, but skaters are concerned that they’ll lose their skills the longer they’re off the ice, Breakenridge said. The club is working with Skate Ontario to host a modified version of their annual skating competition, so they’re hoping to get skaters on the ice in September to prepare for the November competition.
“Since the re-opening stages have begun, we have received many emails from concerned parents who are anxious to get their skaters back on the ice, especially as more and more arenas open across the province and within our regional health unit,” Breakenridge said. “These kids have been locked up for approximately 5 months with many having been stripped of their usual physical activity, no contact with friends and no mental health outlets.”
Members of the club decided to write the letter after listening to council meetings and sensing a lack of urgency in restoring youth programming and reopening facilities. They’ve been in contact with management at the Summit Centre, Breakenridge said, but council approval is required to reopen. Club members are hopeful that council will decide in their favour, especially given the strict protocols laid out by Skate Ontario.
“Skate Ontario protocols have been used successfully at several arenas for over a month now,” Breakenridge said. “Hopefully the town will look at the successful reopening of other arenas and community centres in our Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and allow our Summit Centre to also reopen promptly.”
The town’s Community Services Division has developed a process for town staff to engage with stakeholders while creating plans for reopening facilities. The facilities have been grouped into six categories and Huntsville Skating Club President Kerri Vallentin is participating as a stakeholder for the arenas category. Lorrie O’Brien, director of community services, said the group has had two online meetings so far and will continue to meet until a plan is in place.
“The engagement process with arena stakeholders is a series of virtual discussions through Zoom with current arena permit holders and town administration,” O’Brien said. “Permit holders have shared their ‘return to play’ plans and now town staff are developing a ‘path to recovery plan’ specific to arena operations at the Canada Summit Centre.”
While reopenings will depend on the development of the pandemic as well as guidelines from the provincial government and local health unit, O’Brien said they plan to present their next staff report regarding the feasibility of reopening some services to council in August.