Letter – ‘Public’ skating should be free

When I was campaigning [October 2021 municipal election], I emphasized the importance of youth sports.
The current mayor and council were hesitant to open the second ice surface [Gordon Buchanan Recreation Centre] this year. Eventually, they decided to put it in, but only after I did a video on the large number of parents who had expressed to me how unhappy they were with no public skating.
Then council decided to charge $5 a person per use. Never before has anyone had to pay for public skating or shinny hockey. That is why it is called ‘public’ skating.
Council implemented a charge during a COVID year when people have less money for extra curricular activities due to the long-lasting effects of COVID and shutting down or limiting many places of employment.
Council did not make it easy to pay for this activity. One would think you would pay at the arena, the same place you would be skating. But no! You need to pay at the swimming pool across town. Not only is this inconvenient, it is a long distance for preteens to walk there and back.
Can’t you trust your arena staff to handle money? If not, with today’s technology, why aren’t you looking at cash point machines or other options?
But I go back again to why has the mayor and council decided to charge for public skating? You couldn’t give our youth a sledding hill but you can try to make up budget shortfalls $5 a time on the backs of our children.
Gordon Buchanan and Cliff Calvert were pillars of our community. They were instrumental in getting the second ice surface up and running. They wanting skating and hockey to be accessible to everyone. The current mayor and council do not recognize the importance of physical activity to the mental health of our youth. And yet they will all tell us how important youth activities are in our town Skating is a good, inexpensive way to allow our youth to get much-needed exercise and spend time with friends. This fee limits kids from participating.
And the inconvenience of having to pay at the swimming pool is ridiculous.
Mayor and council should pay more attention to the needs of the community. Being a mayor and councillor means more than just going to meetings.

Barry Sharkawi,
High Prairie, AB

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