With no place to skate in the town of Nunavut, residents removed sea ice to create a skating rink

There may not be a yard available in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, right now, but the community isn’t without a rink this winter, thanks to some helpful residents.

Keith Lear began digging a sea ice rink in front of the community, inspired by another resident, Naikak Hakongak, who had been bulldozing a place to skate in recent years.

Lear, who owns the local hardware store, and a Bobcat decide to help clear the makeshift sea ice rink

“[Hakongak] He made a fairly good sized rink, but then we had snow here, so I decided to go down there and help him out and use the bobcats we had and it made the rink really big,” Lear said.

“So it’s available for families, community members and children to enjoy.”

A snowy landscape where people are seen skiing from a distance.
Children skate on an ice rink on sea ice in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. The residents cleared the ice so that people would have a place to skate, since the current ice rinks in the village are unavailable. Follow Favorite

The community of about 1,800 people is located on the western entrance to the Northwest Corridor. For now, Lear said, the temporary skating rink is the only way for residents to go skating.

“The old yard isn’t even used. So, really, kids don’t have anywhere to go skating and playing hockey like they did in the past,” said Lear.

“At least get them out and hopefully they can play and enjoy the cooler temperatures.”

Lear said he’s seen up to 10 kids at once on the sea ice rink so far. He said, as the days go by, the use of fenugreek will increase.

“I’m sure as the days get brighter, there will be more and more kids surfing on the ocean.”

If there was a blizzard or storm, Lear said they would go back outside to clear the changing rink.

“We kind of pushed the snow in a way that protected the rink from snowflakes, but every time there was snow or something, we would come down with our bobcat and clear it up and make sure it was usable,” Lear said.

New ice arena ‘top priority’

The old square complex in Cambridge Bay closed in 2018, Halla Duale, a spokeswoman for Nunavut’s Department of Community and Government Services, said in an email. It was due to air quality concerns of mold throughout the building.

The territory issued a repair contract in the fall of 2018, Dowell said, and the work finished in February 2019. The field opened to the public “briefly” in the spring of 2019, and then again in the following years. Until 2021, she said.

Duale said the department cannot comment on the 2022-2023 closure “as the arena is operated and maintained by the municipality of Cambridge Bay.”

Jim MacEachern, shown here in May 2022, is the Chief Administrative Officer at Cambridge Bay. (Gene George/CBC)

Some of the closures were due to COVID-19, said Jim McEachern, the village’s chief administrative officer. He said that while there was a “significant” remedy done in 2019 to the old yard to fix mold issues, there was still a mold issue, along with structural issues.

He said there was now a consultation taking place to test the air quality, and to see if the arena could be operational “at least” for the rest of the season.

Execution of a contract to build a new arena began on March 25, 2020 when the department and the municipality entered into an agreement worth $4.2 million. Duale said that the responsibility for managing and completing the project rests with the municipality.

However, in February 2022, the municipality requested more funding to complete the project. “Due to the volume of demand,” Duale said it is still under review by the department. She did not say how much the village asked for.

MacEachern said he did not know how much money the village had requested, but said that money would go towards installation materials and finishing touches. He said project costs have gone up in part because of the pandemic.

A hockey game near the Northern Alert System in Cambridge Bay in June of 2022. The community is currently without an indoor ice arena. (Gene George/CBC)

He said the “shell” of the building is there, and the materials for such things as snow-making equipment, bleachers, and all the interior furnishings are in the hamlet.

“I have been in constant contact with you [Government of Nunavut] And with federal departments they try to help. It’s just something that isn’t budgeted for in GN budgets. And so we hope that in the new fiscal year we will be able to allocate funding for it.

“I don’t expect many delays once the funding is in place.”

MacEachern said he realizes “there is definitely” a sense of frustration among the population.

“This is very understandable. An ice rink in a community the size of Cambridge Bay is very important. So having the funding to finish the project is essential,” he said. “It’s high on our priority list.”

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