Article by Valerie Macdonald: images supplied

As the sun rises weekend mornings and most people are still asleep, Jeff Turney heads out to the Castleton outdoor rink to run the ice surfacer, to ready the pond for the kids and adults who will enjoy it during the day ahead.

The Colborne man has dedicated the last 15 years or so to make sure community members have an amazing 175 by 75-foot outdoor rink where they can skate and play pond hockey.

“It’s bigger than the Grafton Arena,” Turney says.

For the last couple of years, Stacy King has been his “right hand” person in creating the ice surface and maintaining the outdoor rink, he adds.

The Castleton Sports Club owns the property where the ice rink and canteen are located near Northumberland Hills Public School. The history of the community rink goes way back Turney says.

The first location was behind the Castleton General Store on a pond, but after a young girl “broke through the ice and drowned” the community rink was relocated behind the “old” Castleton public School where Turney, in fact, skated as a “little guy,” he says.

His family has lived in the area near Morganston.

Eventually, the school board decided the ice rink should not be there and the non-profit, Castleton Sports Club purchased a piece of property to create a new outdoor area which is located near Northumberland Hills Public School and playing fields.

For a time, farmers cleared the ice and trucks were deployed to transport water to flood the surface. Now there is about an 8,000-gallon tank buried in the ground to hold the water and a pipe to transport it to the surface. Because warmer water freezes quicker than cold, the underground water temperature allows the pond to “freeze quick, freeze fast and freeze flat, Turney says.

About 125,000 gallons of water has been pumped into the pond this season out of about 200,000 annually as the pond ebbs and flows through rising temperatures that bring thaws and then dips below the freezing mark.

In addition to the improved system of caring for the pond, about eight years ago he investigated getting an ice surfacing machine and picked up a used one in Elmira, Ontario for about $2,500.

The machine shaves the ice, a hopper collects it and then dribbles water back onto the ice from the back where a towel swishes the ice surface.

Before the acquisition of the ice resurfacer “it would take hours” to put a new finish to the ice compared to about 10 minutes now, he says.

Despite the equipment, Turney says it takes about 10 to 14 hours a week (with about eight hours on weekends alone) to maintain the outdoor pond. As well he invests about $60 to $70 per week in just fuel alone for the ice resurfacer which comes out of his pocket along with the costs for hoses, replacement heaters, etc.

When asked if he plans to keep looking after the outdoor rink, Turney doesn’t think twice about his affirmative answer.

“It’s too much fun” to give up “and I love to drive in circles,” he laughs.

On a more serious note, Turney says the outdoor rink “is for the kids and the community.

“There are few activities for kids in the area and some will never see an indoor rink.”

He describes it as a not only a “very special place “ but one where “many positive things happen when father and son, or family, or a child, steps on the ice.”

Though Turney rarely gets time to skate himself or watch his kids there because of his hectic work schedule that starts at 4:30 a.m. weekdays taking him to his job in Toronto, late nights and early mornings rinkside are well worth it.

“Friday nights it will be packed…and the same Saturday,” he says.

On Family Day, Monday, Feb. 19, Turney is planning the 2018 Castleton Cup Pond Hockey Tournament opening it up to younger kids than in past years.

This year it will be open for those aged 6 to 18.

The tournament will start about 8 a.m. and go to 6 p.m. or “even longer,” he said.

Pond hockey uses six-inch high nets with two 18 by 6-inch holes through which kids try to shoot a puck. There is no goalie and teams of four people play against one another. Each game lasts 25 minutes and each six-person team (minimum) is guaranteed at least three games.

“There are no winners or losers,” he says. Proceeds from the Sports Club’s

tournament go to pay for the rink’s hydro bill which includes the rink lights.

“We don’t ask for financial assistance from anybody.”

For miles around, there is no outdoor rink like the one in Castleton claims Turney.  Keeping it going for the community makes winter a special time for everyone—  including him.