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Skating loop draws winter crowds to Echo Valley Provincial Park

Visitors lace up before skating the loop at Echo Valley Provincial Park on Jan. 23, 2020.
Visitors lace up before skating the loop at Echo Valley Provincial Park on Jan. 23, 2020. Daniella Ponticelli / Global News

A campground inside Saskatchewan’s Echo Valley Provincial Park is busier than ever this winter after the site was cleared and flooded for a skating loop.

Park manager Tanya Lawson said the idea, dubbed ‘Skate the Park,’ was inspired by similar efforts in other provinces.

“We have ski trails, we have hiking trails and snowshoeing, but we thought, ‘let’s try some skating,'” Lawson said.

READ MORE: Backyard rinks a flood of activity for builders, skaters

Lawson and her team began laying down ice inside Aspen Campground in November. She then put a call out for a three-point hitch Zamboni and a neighbouring community came through.

“We’ve been making good ice since December, and just keeping up on it every week,” she said.

Skaters enjoy warm temperatures at Echo Valley Provincial Park on Jan. 23, 2020.
Skaters enjoy warm temperatures at Echo Valley Provincial Park on Jan. 23, 2020. Dave Parsons / Global News

The skating loop officially opened to the public on Jan. 16, with the aim to maintain it until March 19.

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While skaters are welcome anytime, the visitor centre and washrooms are only open during regular office hours, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“It lets people know the parks are still good in the winter, we can still have a lot of fun in the winter,” Lawson said.

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Those hours are extended Thursday evenings, until 9 p.m., and on Saturdays between noon and 4 p.m. The park will also host an evening skate until 10 p.m. on Valentine’s Day.

“We’ll have the fire going, we’ll have staff here, the visitor’s centre is open to go warm up in and have some hot chocolate,” Lawson said.

Skaters warm up by a bonfire near the skating loop at Aspen Campground in Echo Valley Provincial Park, about a 40-minute drive from Regina.
Skaters warm up by a bonfire near the skating loop at Aspen Campground in Echo Valley Provincial Park, about a 40-minute drive from Regina. Daniella Ponticelli / Global News

Melony Matery and her three friends bought new figure skates to enjoy their first visit to the loop Thursday night.

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“This is amazing — the fire, the friendship and everything, this is awesome, more people should come,” she said.

Lawson said seeing people enjoy the park the makes the effort worthwhile.

READ MORE: Online reservation dates set for Saskatchewan provincial park campsites

“Our goal is to get people out — we know everybody loves camping, but this is a whole different adventure for some people,” she said.

“It lets people know the parks are still good in the winter, we can still have a lot of fun in the winter.”

Visitors are asked to bring their own skates and leave hockey sticks at home, however, helmets are encouraged for added safety. A valid park pass is needed to enter the site, and can be picked up at the visitor centre during regular hours.