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Local recreation sites back in business

Photo by Jan Vassbotn, HDGA President
Hintonites looking for outdoor activities while still physically distancing from others can head to the  Hinton Disc Golf Course for some competition.

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Disc golf course, mountain bike park and gun range all open, but operating under COVID guidelines

A handful of recreation sites are welcoming back visitors and members as a result of relaxed government restrictions due to COVID-19.

The Hinton Mountain Bike Park and the Hinton Disc Golf Course opened on May 1 after  municipal COVID-19-related restrictions were lifted and the Hinton Fish and Game Facility is open for all members as of May 14.

Alberta Biz Connect presented reopening guidelines for both outdoor recreation areas and gun ranges on May 11.  

Dawn Paterson, secretary of Hinton Fish and Game, said they are required to have hand sanitizer available for all members at each bench at the gun range.

Restrictions put in place to keep everyone at a safe distance include closing the two middle shooting tables, no access to outhouses, or the indoor archery.

The outdoor archery is currently closed but will open once maintenance is complete.

Paterson said other facilities will remain closed as there isn’t enough volunteer staff to wipe down facilities after each use.

Cash transactions at the range will also be eliminated and membership placards must be displayed in each vehicle.

Only 15 people will be allowed in the gun range at any given time and any more people must wait in their vehicles until others leave.

Each member is limited to one hour of shooting, to allow others their turn.

Paterson said Hinton Fish and Game has been inundated with calls, texts, and emails from people wanting to use the gun range. This has created a concern about managing the number of people at the facility.

“We decided that we have to implement social distancing and only allow 15 people out there at a time,” Paterson said.

Hinton Fish and Game based this decision on AHS’ direction that no more than 15 people should gather in one space.

Once outdoor archery opens, 15 people will be allowed at the outdoor archery range and 15 more will be allowed at the gun range, Paterson added.

This is due to the two sites being on opposite ends of the property.

Staff has put up signage reminding members to social distance and follow the new regulations put in place by Hinton Fish and Game.

Staff as well as surveillance cameras will help monitor the grounds.

Social distancing measures will be easier to implement at the outdoor archery range, because each shooting station is anywhere from 100 to 200 yards apart, said Paterson.

“We are keeping our indoor range closed, it will not open because if we open it we will need staff wiping things down as they come and go. We don’t have the manpower, we’re a non profit organization so we don’t have the financing to hire anybody to do it either,” said Paterson.

The organization has lost most of its revenue sources this summer as well from rentals, bookings, competitions, and events.

“[It’s] a huge impact, we’re going to be counting on getting grants to help us,” Paterson added.

Hinton’s disc golf association (HDGA) has welcomed its fair share of new and old players to the course since May 1.

Chad Scobie enjoying the Hinton disc golf course.
Louis Corbeil Photo

Louis Corbeil, who is on the board of directors and one of the association’s founders, said he’s been on the course a few times already this spring and spoke with some players who were new to the game.

The course opened in 2017 and introduced the community to a game that is simple to learn using an inexpensive disc to play.

The goal of the game is to play each hole from tee off to basket in the fewest strokes possible. 

Corbeil said some people might be staying at home due to the pandemic, but it’s also bringing new people out that are looking for a new sport as other sports are cancelled.

“It’s doing a bit of both, people who are rightfully concerned want to keep distant at all cost, but it’s also bringing families in who are looking for an activity,” Corbeil said.

The course gives people another option to get out and enjoy an activity.

“For those who like to be active, this throws in a bit of competition in there and it’s fun, you try to do your best and it takes your mind off things,” Corbeil said.

The club has made some changes to make it safer under current circumstances.

Since the course is free to use, players don’t need to worry about passing fees back and forth, people use their own equipment, and posters around the course remind players of physical distancing measures.

Players are required to play in groups of four or less and different options are available for those who want to avoid touching the baskets.

Forestry flagging tape is used to flag the nearest tree to each basket, any player that doesn’t want to touch the basket, can hit the three instead.

“We’re open for business and there are ways of playing without having to put your hands on the chains of the basket and put your hands on different things. There are ways to have your hands on your disc and that’s basically it,” Corbeil said.

The parking lot across the road has also been reopened and can be used by users of the disc golf club.

Unfortunately, the HDGA’s first Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) sanctioned tournament was to be June 6, but was cancelled.

All league play was also cancelled until further notice, most likely for the entire year.

For those who like to pick up the speed a little bit, the Hinton Mountain Bike Association (HMBA) opened the bike park on May 1 as well. 

With extra time on everyone’s hands, HMBA has seen some positive impacts in increased trail maintenance.

“People are going out on their own this year, raking trees, cleaning ditches, taking down trees, because people have more time now,” said Casey MacKay, HMBA secretary.

The trails are looking much better than they have in the past, she added.

On top of people going out on their own to volunteer, HMBA has also seen more trail users this year already.

While social distancing recommendations are hard to enforce on the trails, HMBA sent out messaging via email and social media about what’s expected of their users.

The 15 person limit on gatherings has affected HMBA’s trail maintenance nights, when a group of volunteers gather to maintain trails.

The first maintenance night was this week and the association typically organizes a few each spring and fall. Due to the gathering restrictions, the usual Monday and Wednesday group rides, as well as Sprockids have been cancelled this season. The loss of Sprockids, which brings in around 90 kids every spring, also has effects on HMBA’s memberships. A membership is necessary to join Sprockids, and without the program the association could see a decline.

“We’re really concerned about our members because that helps get us grants, it helps fund new trails and maintain the old trails,” MacKay said.

“We just really want to encourage everybody to get their memberships, even for people that are walking on our trails and stuff it would be nice if they would help support us because we do so much work to maintain it.”

No financial losses have been accounted for but the association isn’t asking for many donations this year as they know local companies are suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic.