On the shores of Georgian Bay, icy dreams spark a red-hot volunteer effort

Nawash Community Rink will create ‘a sense of ownership, a sense of pride’ for First Nation

The Ontario town of Neyaashiinigmiing, on the shores of Georgian Bay, translates from the Ojibway as “point of land surrounded on three sides by water.”

And when it comes to water, the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation really like the frozen stuff too—with skates, helmets, pucks and sticks thrown in as necessary.

“Back in the late 1960s, a bunch of community members here got together and started building a small rink on their own. They mixed cement and poured a pad that lasted for years,” says Adrienne Brennan, a project manager with the Chippewas of Nawash.

“Prior to that, people have stories of a nun that taught at the school here, and she would go out and make an ice rink for the kids outside the school—all the kids would be inside, watching at the window,” adds Brennan. “So when it comes to a community rink, there’s real spirit and determination here.”

And on Cape Croker, on the east side of the Bruce Peninsula, that can-do attitude is bigger and bolder than ever—and taking on an even bigger project.

When complete, the Nawash Community Rink will feature a covered, permanent, 185-foot-by-85-foot sheet of refrigerated ice with boards and glass, change rooms, washrooms, mechanical rooms, concession, seating, sound system, lighting and landscaping—and operational costs to be offset by a solar panel system.

The rink will be a hub of activity for the Chippewas of Nawash—just like it has been ever since spring 2017, when the boards were purchased off a government auction website.

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“So far, everything we’ve done has been based on in-kind and volunteer services,” says Brennan. “All the site prep work was done by different band programs. All the gravel we use was donated by a community member who owns a gravel pit. A local company trucked in materials for limestone screenings.

“All the labor for taking down the boards, and putting into shipping containers, was done by community members. Design and engineering of the structure will be donated as well,” she adds. “A lot of volunteer and in-kind donations have got us to this point.”

Enbridge is committed to improving quality of life in the communities near our operations—including the nearby 181-megawatt Ontario Wind Power Project. In 2017, we invested more than $6.5 million in community-strengthening initiatives across Ontario, and our recent $10,000 donation to the Chippewas of Nawash will help support the final stages of rink construction.

The Nawash Community Rink, targeted for completion as early as the end of 2019, will play host to hockey, broomball, curling, lacrosse, floor hockey, a host of youth recreation programs, concerts, special events and, in the summer, a weekly farmer and artisan market.

“All of our children in the community, right now, have to travel to a municipality (including Lion’s Head, Wiarton and Owen Sound) to play any type of sport,” says Scott Lee, who co-manages the rink project with Brennan.

“I believe the ice rink itself will give them a sense of ownership, a sense of pride in the community.”