The idea for a skating rink began during the infancy of the Hamlet of Bezanson. The Herald-Tribune reported in February 1940, “Curling, Skating Rinks to Be Built in Bezanson District”. The article went on to say that the meeting was held at Rooney’s Store with Moose Nellis acting as chairman. A permit had been obtained and the plan was for a regulation-size hockey/skating rink. It was decided to locate the rink on what was known as the “sports grounds” across the road to the east of the store. Unfortunately, with the onset of WWII, many of the young men from the area enlisted and the project had to be put on hold.
However, once the Lindsay Senior and Lindsay Junior Schools had been moved into the Hamlet of Bezanson in 1948 and 1950 respectively, the Community began to discuss the possibility of constructing a skating rink in close proximity to the school. Harold Ford decided to take matters into his own hands and built a small rink on his property. The location was very convenient as it was directly north of the school. In 1960, the West Smoky Legion donated $50 towards the purchase of lights for the skating rink following which the County School Committee authorized the use of the old teacherage as a dressing room for the skating rink in 1961. Furthermore in 1962, W.J. Maxwell, principal of the Bezanson School, received approval from the County of Grande Prairie for the use of the rink on Mr. Ford’s property and noted that an all-inclusive insurance policy would be issued.
In 1964, the Home and School Committee, with the assistance of many volunteers, had a rink built on the school property. It was situated south of the school next to the road. In 1967, the County of Grande Prairie approved the move of the old teacherage to the new skating rink. Eventually the rink was moved to the west side of the school and in 1970, the Legion paid for the cost of having the rink wired and maintained the monthly cost of approximately $10. In 1972, the teacherage/change room was again moved by legion members following which, the Legion purchased a pump to ensure that the rink could be flooded in a timely manner and maintained as need be. By 1976, the rink needed to be repaired. The Legion members, who were the caretakers of the facility, decided to not only repair the rink, but also to enlarge it by 40’; the cost for which was borne by the Legion. In 1978, the Legion donated funds towards the cost of a snow-blower that would be used to remove the snow from the rink. The west rink was in use until 1990 or 1991 at which time it was removed. Shortly thereafter, the Ag Society built a small rink between the north ball diamond and the curling rink which was in use for a few years before a decision was made by the Bezanson Volunteer Fire Department Society to rebuild a rink on the school property exactly where the covered rink is now located.
In 2012, after the rink had been in use for several years, a multi-year project was initiated by the Bezanson Recreational Society (formerly known as the Bezanson Volunteer Fire Department Society) to build a covered rink at the current location. The three-phase endeavor began with asphalt paving and temporary boards followed by the installation of permanent rink boards, benches, lighting and crowd-protection nets in 2013. Phase 3 culminated in 2015 with the construction of a building to cover the rink following which a grand opening was organized for February 2016.
2019 saw a small extension built on to the west side of the building to house the zamboni which had been purchased previously. The zamboni certainly was a welcomed addition by the members of the Bezanson Recreational Society who are responsible for the ice maintenance. During the summer months, the rink is used for ball hockey, skateboarding etc.
The “Bezanson Skating Rink”, which originated as a small rink on Harold Ford’s property, became a substantial covered structure. It is truly an invaluable Community asset that is a testament to the resourcefulness and perseverance of all those involved who were, and continue to be, determined to provide recreational opportunities for all those who reside in the area.
West Smoky Legion No. 244 Minutes & Ledgers
Photos of the Bezanson School – Wanda Zenner collection
Bezanson Recreation Society – timeline photos of covered skating rink
Interview with Maxine Maxell
Interview with Connie Stewart
Interview with Judy (Ford) Purves
Interview with Joan Ford
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Written by Wanda Zenner – January 2020.