Mark Denault, Carlington's would-be snowboard king, has done his best to get ready for winter. Now if only Mother Nature would help.
“Local people have bought lessons and passes and booked parties. They are just so supportive. We'll be glad to get things going for them,” said Laura Baker, who does the talking for Carlington Snowpark while Denault scurries to replace vandalized signs, install a second lift and make snow.
As of the first week of January, Carlington Snowpark was still not ready for operation, although Denault had installed the snowboarders' tow lift and kept his bargain with the city in preparing a toboggan hill on the side facing Lepage Avenue.
“He has cleared the side hill, smoothed it out and took out some scrub bushes,” said City recreation planner Grant Peart. “It's all set for sliding once we get some snow.”
Neighbour Milan Egrmajer agreed that “They did indeed bulldoze all the bumps out of the hill, but I think the City should have fenced it at the bottom to stop cross traffic from the steep side. It's up to them to make it safe.” He had concerns about the safety of the main hill as well, which sported odd fence-posts and snow boulders in its half-ready state, and no lights or supervision as yet.
By the time this newspaper reaches you, the hill may be open. “Now that the temperature has dropped and is supposed to stay down, we hope to bring in some snow-making equipment,” said Baker. “It's ironic that there's a giant water reservoir at the top of the hill but you have to go through proper channels to get it. We may yet end up trucking in water. One way or another, we'll make snow.”
The City has not gone out of its way to help Denault through “the usual startup hiccups and some real problems weather-wise,” admitted Grant Peart. Just before Christmas, the entrepreneur asked about a water supply to make snow, and Peart referred him to the Region.
As one arena worker at Dulude put it, “Yeah, he's had an uphill battle. He's been out here a lot,” trying to shape some snowboard runs with trucked-in snow and get the lifts in.
Residents have been happy to use the hill for free the few times there has been enough snow. New Year's Day saw snowboards, sleds, toboggans and even a kayak pressed into service to profit from the area's one decent snowfall.
“We are happy to see the kids sliding,” said Baker. “We've tried not to mess things up for them.” At night, however, a different group comes visiting and has stolen signs and broken into a storage shed. Now an overnight security guard is patrolling the hill. Fence gates at top and bottom may have to stay locked.
“All our lift attendants and instructors are hired and trained,” added Baker. “We will open just as soon as we can and hope to keep the hours we set.” She urges would-be snowboarders and tubers to call the Snowpark for updates at 729-9206 or to visit the Eastern Ontario Ski Report on the Internet.