“You need your own space,” says Naotkamegwanning arena manager about upcoming skateboard park

Mary Ann Mooring asks Sagaate Ranville’s questions at Baibombeh School. (Photo Credit:West Ranville)

By Connor Kakeeway

While plans of a proposed skatepark have been available for few months, this past Tuesday January 28, Naotkamegwanning project and arena manager Mary Ann Mooring hosted an open forum at Baibombeh Anishinabe School.

“All this is coming from the voice of youth,” said Principal Eric Wilson who introduced the two guest. The presentation was split into two group, grade 7-12 and 4-6 and had been announced as a  public event of the community’s local Facebook page.

Mary Ann, who is an electrical engineer by trade and maintained many sports centres including the Kenora Recreation Centre, spoke with her partner Alex Man, a geological engineer and trail designer for Scatliff + Miller + Murray.

“You need you own space,” said the arena manager about the upcoming skatepark.

Engineer Alex Man presents the park plans (Photo Credit: West Ranville)

She said the idea and planning initially started in spring of 2018 and that she has since then worked with chief and council. She said she had approved the plans and layout. These plans included Ojibwe themes in the skatepark to be shaped as a snake and turtle.

Engineer Alex Man of Scatliff + Miller + Murray has also built a skateboard park in Wabigoon First Nation. (Photo Credit: Ian Crow)

In both groups, questions were asked on where they would find equipment. They both responded with the idea of getting the older youth to create a fundraising project and corporate sponsorship.

Alex Man is no stranger to skateboarding and working with first nation communities, being skateboarder himself and having created a skate park in Wabigoon First Nation  including making sure the youth were involved.

Baibombeh Anishinaabe School youth listen and ask questions about the skateboard park (Photo Credit: Ian Crow)

In the discussion about maintaining the space Alex also explained that the area should be maintained because rocks and dirt is hazardous to skateboarders. He also brought up bad versus good graffiti – bad meaning unplanned, gang related, and hateful. Good being planned, artistic, meaningful art. Mary Ann went on to suggest a contest on graffiti art that can be facilitated by local artists.

Jazlyn Copenace of grade four said she thinks it would be boring without colour, supporting colourful concrete consisting of the rainbow spectrum.

Mary Ann explained that this will be a good opportunity for more jobs in the community in maintaining the skatepark and the recreation centre which is now the Shawendaasowin Prevention office. Saying the location transition will be next winter, Mary Ann explains that the space could be rebranded to a new business such as a coffee/ice cream shop, with other recreational space such as pool or ping pong tables.  

Mary Ann said they are planning to start this May on the soil and be ready for July long weekend. The estimated cost is $385,000. She says the are currently waiting on a grant to cover $185,000 and are looking for corporate sponsors. Mary Ann and Alex are looking forward to community input to be forwarded to her at the arena next month.

Naotkamegwanning Arena and Project Manager Mary Ann Mooring and Engineer Alex Man at Baibombeh School (Photo Credit: West Ranville)

When asked if this area can be used by people who aren’t interested in sports, Mary Ann replied “You don’t have to care about sports, it’s about family gathering and building character”.

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More Than Just a Skating Rink: Altruistic Peers Strive for Change

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(Left to right) Everett Cowley, Clement Gustafson, Mary-Anne Mooring, Glen White (Photo Credit: Damon Hunter)

Fellow workers make efforts towards a better future for youth

By: Damon Hunter

Thursday,  November 15th was the official opening of the 2018-2019 season of skating at Naotkamegwanning’s Chi Key Wis Arena. It brought smiles, not just to skaters, but also to the people that made it possible.

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Local skaters participate in an open-skate held at the arena (Photo Credit: Damon Hunter)

Since the major reconstruction of the Chi Key Wis Arena four years ago, Mary-Anne Mooring has been the woman behind the scenes helping to make it happen.

Mooring is a longtime Power Engineer, with three decades of experience, including Chief Engineer at the old Winnipeg Arena which housed the Jets and Winnipeg Moose, and Assistant Chief Engineer at the University of Manitoba. She was also responsible for overhauling Kenora Recreational Centre and making their ice.

Mechanical work was what she specialized in for the most part. “I took care of all the physical plans,” she stated.

She expressed gratitude for her fellow workers Glen White, Everett Cowley, and CJ Gustafson. Without the band and council’s financial and motivational support, no such progress would be made, she explained.

Mooring says she is grateful for her partner Denise Lysak who writes some of the grants for Naotkamegwanning projects alongside her.

Everett Cowley is one of the first arena workers, employed there since day one, ‘from where it was just a few light bulbs working and natural ice’.

Prior to his current position, he had already been working at the arena before major changes took place, including removal of mold. His current job, maintaining the Zamboni and ice, is a critical one. Cowley commented that so far there haven’t been many problems and with everyone’s work contributions, things have been running very smoothly.

He related that his main motivation is the kids. He remarked that his grandson is an influence as well, stating that he provides a major incentive to do what Cowley does day by day.

(Left to right) Everett Cowley, Clement Gustafson, Mary-Anne Mooring, Glen White (Left to right) Everett Cowley, Clement Gustafson, Mary-Anne Mooring, Glen White

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(Photo Credit: Damon Hunter)

Together as a group, the workers have been largely responsible for most of the grander changes around Whitefish Bay. Locations such as the new beach, the baseball diamond, and the basketball court are some of the their accomplishments and there will soon be a new skate park along with a conjoined bicycle track.

The goal, Mooring says, is to give the youth a chance at finding what they enjoy and to have something fun to do in their free time.

“We’re about making things better, not just taking care of ourselves,” she says. “It’s about the community.”

Many more projects are aspired for, the biggest being a whole new training facility for young athletes. Wrestling, hockey, and lacrosse are the prime targets as of now. Beach volleyball and a new fitness centre are also very much wanted.

“I know there’ve been some great athletes that could’ve come out of Whitefish Bay and they never had the courage to be able to do what they should’ve done,” Mooring said. “To become those athletes, they need a network for support.”

The following article was also published in the Kenora Daily Miner – The Enterprise in print and online. Available here