Wayne Getson’s property on the O’Leary Road in Knutsford was once full of springs and forest.
Thinking it might make good fish habitat, he dug a small pond behind his house. The fish didn’t like it, but the ducks do, and the water made for a great rink in the winter when it froze.
The O’Leary-area man has since doubled the size of his backyard rink and, once again, invites the community to share it.
Getson has welcomed his neighbours to his winter wonderland for the past four winters. This summer, he got some help from local equipment operator, Preston Murphy, to enlarge the pond’s skating area.
Measuring 200 by 35 feet, the rink is “absolutely free” to use, said Getson adding, “It’s not getting any bigger.”
It already takes two hours to flood the surface and an hour and a half to scrape it.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Wayne Getson's backyard rink in Knutsford is free for the community to visit and use. There's even a shed for folks to put on their skates.
Here are some nice numbers to know:
- 200 – foot-long ice surface
- 35 – feet wide
- 4 – years in the community
- 2 – hockey nets
- 2 – hours to flood the ice surface
- 1.5 – hours to scrape it clean
- 1 – hockey stick (shoots right)
- 0 – cost to use it
Though the pond is on Getson’s land, he said the natural skating rink is a team effort.
Neighbour Dave Ballum stops over after each snowfall with his tractor to clear the ice surface.
Another neighbour, Larry MacWilliams, operates the generator and sump pump the men use to flood the ice and keep it smooth.
“If it wasn’t for these guys, it wouldn’t be. It’s too much for one person,” said Getson.
Getson credits MacWilliams and Ballum with doing 95 per cent of the work, but none of them seem to mind the effort.
“It’s for the kids, the community,” said Ballum. “It keeps us in shape, at our age.”
In addition to the expanded ice surface, Getson has added two large lamps to illuminate the ice at night
Also new for 2021 is the shed MacWilliams built over the summer.
It will replace the pallets from previous years.
“Now they can sit in there and get the skates in comfort,” said Getson.
“Out of the weather,” added Ballum.
MacWilliams even installed bus seats and electric light.
As far as COVID-19 safety precautions, Getson is confident folks know the rules and there’s lots of room on the ice to maintain physical distancing.
There are a few rules posted on the outside of the shed, the most important is no alcohol permitted.
“It’s just not necessary,” said Getson.
The rink is for families and he’s serious about keeping the rink alcohol-free.
Recently, he had to pick up bottles and cans tossed onto the pathway around the ice. Getson said if it happens again, the pond will be shut down completely.
The men have witnessed many special moments at the rink.
Ballum remembers a young man who arrived on the weekend and was pretty enthused.
“Everything was ‘Awesome’,” he said. “That’s what keeps you doin’ it.”
The memory that sticks with Getson happened the first winter he was working on the pond.
“I was just starting,” he said.
A neighbour called to see if she could take her nine-year-old son and his friends over for a skate to celebrate his birthday.
Getson gladly agreed and offered to set a bonfire for the occasion.
The day arrived, a skate was had, and hot-dogs were toasted. Before he left, the birthday boy came up to thank his host.
“This was the best birthday party ever,” he told Getson, who said his heart “just melted”.
That’s the moment he knew he’d be flooding the pond for winters to come.
Alison Jenkins is a local journalism initiative reporter, a position funded by the federal government.