Field will get its rink roof at long last
After years of volunteer fundraising and lobbying, the community of Field will finally be “raising the roof” on their outdoor rink thanks to a half-a-million dollar provincial grant.
A jubilant crowd of approximately 60 people gathered in the Field ice rink building on March 17 to greet Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, who announced an investment of $567,500 in two West Nipissing infrastructure projects. He was accompanied by Laurie Marcil, a board director for the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC), as the funding comes from the NOHFC’s Community Enhancement Program. The Field rink roof project received the bulk of the money, $500,000, while the remaining $67,500 will serve to replace a septic holding tank at the Lavigne Community Centre.
Fedeli himself was so impressed with the turnout in Field that he took his own panorama photo of the crowd, telling them, “Oh my God. It’s beautiful! ….. Man, did you guys do some work. The Field Regional Economic Development Committee, the Field Golden Age Club and the Field Knights of Columbus… This is really something and it just really speaks to the importance of volunteers. All of the volunteers that are here, Premier Ford calls this the spirit of Ontario, and when I send him that photo this morning, I will tell him ‘You want to see the spirit!’.”
Fedeli showed off the drawings for the planned revitalization of the Field rink, boasting of the benefits of the project. “The upgrades are going to allow for more community events to be held here, connecting even more residents from across the region. That whole project is $810,000… We’re really looking forward to seeing that project completed. And, of course, the Lavigne Community Centre is going to use $67,500 to replace a septic holding tank.” After receiving a loud and enthusiastic response to both announcements, Fedeli quipped to his friendly audience, “I’ve got to call my boss and I’m gonna say, ‘buddy, I announced the septic tank today and got an applause for it!’”
The crowd on hand was full of local dignitaries, along with local families and children, and two long time volunteers, Denis Labelle, Chief of the Field Fire Fighters, and Ken Paquette Sr., president of F.R.E.D. (Field Recreation & Economic Development). Labelle and the fire fighters had been fundraising for years. The original plan was to build the rink building as Phase 1, and cover the rink as Phase 2, starting well over 30 years ago, “But we got volunteer fatigue at the time and basically backed away for a bit; there was no money available anywhere.” Thirty years ago the cost was estimated at $180,000, as compared to $810,000 today.
Most of the group dismantled in discouragement, but a hefty $125K donation by the Caisse populaire in Field (now Caisse Alliance), encouraged by two board members – Mario Rousseau and Ken Paquette – inspired a new surge of activity. A new Raise the Roof committee was formed, chaired by Julie Ann Bertram, under the auspices of F.R.E.D, and the local fire fighters again took up the challenge. “I like doing fundraising and through the fire service, I got a good group that’s always supporting me,” said Labelle, noting that Chris Fisher was a volunteer fire fighter at the time. He was then elected as a municipal councilor for Ward 5, and made the rink project one of his objectives. Labelle noted that over the 30 years, countless volunteers have been involved, and although he kept the endeavour alive during that time, he had almost given up. Now, “It’ll be done by fall!”
Ken Paquette was also thrilled to see a long-term dream come about. “We cut logs. We cut pine logs and sold it to the Field Lumber quite a long time ago… We’ve been working at it for quite a while,” he recounted. After receiving the funding from the Caisse Alliance and a contribution from the municipality, not even COVID could halt the enthusiasm. Ken is old school – he’s very happy, but not one to count chickens before they hatch, “I’ll feel very good once I start to see it!” As for what it means to Field, it’s about both recreation and economic development. “With our winter carnival, it’s always raining or the sun will melt the ice. At least now we’ll be able to have a good carnival without any problems with the ice.” In the summer, look forward to open air markets and concerts and other events.
Julie Ann Bertram, added, “In 2017, F.R.E.D. decided that we needed a dedicated rink committee to advocate for the building of a roof over our rink. Ken Paquette suggested me as President and Raise the Roof was born! We have about 15 members on the committee, all of whom spent many hours helping to move this forward. In 2018, we began fundraising with the help of all the other groups in Field, we wrote and rewrote a case to the municipality, we researched, drew sketches, discussed options, and built community support. Five years later, a couple of failed grant proposals, and many months of inaction due to Covid, we finally made it here!”