For the second year in a row, Lacombe has an extra place to skate outdoors thanks to the efforts of one local man.
Brent Law began clearing off the ice of the Elizabeth Park Blvd. pond last year for kids in the community, and this year he’s back at it again – with over 25 hours of work into it already this season.
“It’s my way of giving back to kids in the neighbourhood,” he said. “It’s nice to see them come running down the street right after school with their sticks and bags heading to the rink… and it reminds me of when I was a kid, and when my kids were kids.”
Having grown up himself in small-town Saskatchewan, he says clearing ponds to skate or play hockey was just part of what they did, and what he did every year for his own children. So when he saw a few kids out on the pond scraping off a tiny area just big enough for them to skate on, he decided he’d take care of that for them.
He bought a snowblower from the local Home Hardware, and while the edges of the pond were too hard to break through with the machine he had, he was able to create a bigger area for the kids to skate on.
The action didn’t go unnoticed.
“The Grumpy’s Skate Sharpening guy was coming down the road and he said: ‘You’re a good dad for doing that for your kids.’ I said: ‘my kids are grown and gone. I’m just doing it for the neighbourhood kids’… He traded a 24 inch cheap snowblower I bought for a good quality 27 inch one, straight across, so now it’s easy.”
While the City of Lacombe has other rinks they take care of, such as Cranna Lake and the outdoor rink adjacent the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex, the pond isn’t one workers are able to get equipment down to, so either those in the community do it themselves, or it doesn’t get used.
This year, Law made sure to create a large enough area for a full-blown pond hockey game, as well as a smaller area for little ones to skate when a game is being played. He was able to drill light posts – warped timbers given to him by Castle Wolf Creek Building Supplies – into the 16-inch thick ice, and a couple of neighbourhood families chipped in to help him buy three lights to allow skaters to be on the ice past 4:30 p.m.
City Councillor Chris Ross provided hay bales, and Law covered them with old work blankets so those in the community had a place to put their skates on. A small fire pit has also been built to keep skaters warm – another ‘tradition’ Law says they had in Saskatchewan.
With warmer weather putting skaters at risk of falling through thin ice at Cranna Lake last week (due to the nature of it being a stormwater pond with running water underneath), the space to skate at the Elizabeth Park Blvd. pond was much appreciated by the community as a whole.
Dozens of neighbourhood kids, a minor hockey team hosting a going-away party for a teammate moving away, as well as a few skaters that drove in from Blackfalds– as outdoor rinks in the town weren’t yet ready for use – were all seen on the ice in just about the first week it had been cleared off.
Law’s wife, Norma Smith-Law posted a photo of the busy little pond to the Lacombe & Area Community Info & Watch page on Facebook. As of Tuesday, it had 347 likes, nine shares and a plethora of positive feedback and thankful comments.
“I think this is the nicest thing I’ve ever seen done in Lacombe. This is the small town feel I was expecting when I moved here 12 years ago. Well done,” wrote Lisa Tiller.
“It is a wonderful happening. This gentleman has shown us the power of one. He has demonstrated that one person can be a very (positive) influence for the joy of many. Thank (you) so much, from all of us,” wrote Georgia Blackmore.
A fellow neighbour, Kenneth Smith, called him a great neighbour as well, spending many hours on the pond with a snowblower clearing off the ice.
Law says it’s just what his family does, as they’re part of a Samaritan’s bike group, with a mission of helping abused and neglected kids, women and elders, and generally trying to make a positive difference for everyone.
“As a bike group, we do what we can to help families, and this is a good one for me,” Law said. “I like to see happy kids in the community.”