Liz Brown, Chetwynd Echo
CHETWYND – Hurry hard and sweep are terms you won’t be hearing at the Chetwynd curling rink this year. Teammates won’t be watching for hoggers or asking their skip if it’s time to peel.
The Chetwynd Curling Club closed for the first time since its 50 years of existence, with the exception of moving to the recreation centre years ago.
Time, money and lack of community interest are the main contributors to the club losing its ice time according to Graciete Folster, president of the Curling Club.
“It’s upsetting. We should be curling,” said Folster.
“It’s hard because our juniors do very well in our community,” said Gemma Jewison, Vice President of the Chetwynd Curling Club.
Folster and Jewison wrote a formal letter to Chetwynd expressing their disappointment:
“The Chetwynd Curling Club wants to apologize to the community of Chetwynd because we will not be able to provide curling as we do not have an ice maker for this season.”
Their volunteer ice maker moved from Chetwynd this year and currently the club cannot afford to pay someone for the time required to install six sheets of ice—about 40 hours of work, said Folster.
The letter also stated:
“The Chetwynd Curling Club has been struggling the last few seasons with membership, a trend that seems to be Canada—wide, so we would need the community to come out, support and participate in curling in order to rejuvenate the club.”
The club’s membership dropped over the last few years and was almost cut in half in 2011. Last year the club had an average of 20 adults and about 20 kids attending the Junior League.
“We need about 50 people to come out and join a league,” said Folster.
In an effort to save the club, they ran a Learn to Curl Program as well as a free drop-in night once a week, but people just weren’t attending.”
“The Chetwynd Curling Club is in the process of negotiating a contract renewal with the Recreation Centre for the 2013-2014 season,” said Folster.
They will be negotiating the lease and upkeep of the ice.
“We’ve had people looking online before moving to Chetwynd and say ‘wow, look at that six-sheet ice,’” said Folster.
Janelle Sakamoto, 24, Junior Planning Assistant for West Fraser moved to Chetwynd in May and as a competitive curler from Richmond, she was excited to read online about Chetwynd’s curling club.
“I used the recreation centre all last summer and was excited for curling to start.”
After chatting with staff members and people in town, she thought ‘wow, there must be so many people who curl here,’ but when she attended the AGM, she learned the club was struggling and the public had no idea.
“Nobody told me membership was really low. They said if enough people didn’t show up, there wouldn’t be any curling.”
“I’m a competitive curler so for me to come up here and have no curling at all…I was pretty bummed. I have to curl. That has always been a huge part of my life.”
Sakamoto has curled for seven years. At 15, her friend asked her to play and her dad was the coach. They made high school provincials, and placed second last.
“It was horrible. We came in second last, but it was fun, so we kept doing it.”
She started to do well in her third year and always enjoyed the social aspect of the sport.
“It’s such a great sport. It’s a lifetime sport.”
At the Richmond club where Sakamoto curls, she often sees curlers over 80—years—old.
“There are lots of different tweaks but people stick with it. That’s why it’s kind of a shame. We need quite a bit of money.”
While she is not on a curling team, Sakamoto drives weekly to Dawson Creek and practices, hoping to meet competitive curlers and get on a spare list.
This year, she hopes to help with fundraising, sit down and see what is needed in order to ensure the club is revived for 2013-2014.
“It would just be so nice to have a club in the community because it’s a big social thing,” said Sakamoto.
Hudson’s Hope also has a curling league, which meets Wednesday and Friday nights, organized by Steve Metzer. Folster recalls when Hudson’s Hope didn’t have a rink and would drive to Chetwynd to curl.
Curling enthusiasts in Chetwynd are to contact Folster to help strategize for fundraising and ensure the club is ready to throw rocks next year. She can be contacted at 250-788-2358.
“We need the community to support the club,” said Folster.
The curling rink will be used for different activities this year said Tyria Plamondon, Recreation Manager.