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Selkirk College Carpentry Class Helps Blewett Outdoor Rink Project

Bob Hall
By Bob Hall
December 3rd, 2017

Students in Selkirk College’s Carpentry Foundation Program are earning an assist with an outdoor rink project that will bring a fittingly Canadian recreational outlet to residents in the Blewett region.

Supported by the Blewett Conservation Society (BCS) and Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK), a pair of outdoor skating rinks will be constructed at the Morning Mountain Recreational Area just west of Nelson in December. To help make it a reality, students in the Carpentry Foundation Program have been busy over the last few weeks putting together the pieces in the shops at Nelson’s Silver King Campus.

“This project fit in with our curriculum really well, so we stepped forward to help,” says Selkirk College carpentry instructor Dan Brazeau. “It’s relevant and somewhat simple to construct, so it’s perfect for a beginner carpenter.”

The 24-week Carpentry Foundation Program prepares learners for entry level position as apprentice carpenters with home builders or contracting companies. Students earn credit for the Level One technical training component of the carpentry apprenticeship, plus advance credit for 450 work-based hours.

The Blewett rink project has been a valuable part of early training for students who can focus on building skills in measuring, cutting, screwing and drilling to exact dimensions. Since October, students have been putting the boards and bracket components together in the shop. With work almost complete on the pieces, they will soon assemble both a 15-by-24 metre main rink and a smaller nine-by-nine metre beginner rink.

“It’s a great opportunity to build this for the kids of the area and the adults,” says student Derek McPhail. “I had no idea that this was going to be the project for the year, so it’s neat to be able to say that I helped put something together for the community.”

The rink project holds even more relevance for McPhail, a key member of this season’s Selkirk College Saints hockey team. Together with carpentry classmates and Saints’ teammates Gordon Campbell and Jack Mills, it’s perfect timing that three Selkirk College hockey players are taking part in the project.

McPhail grew up near Thunder Bay where winters can be wickedly cold. Despite the frigid temperatures in western Ontario, he remembers layering up and spending many hours on outdoor ice surfaces.

“We have our fair share of outdoor rinks, it gets cold early and stays that way until pretty much April,” McPhail says of his hometown. “Outdoor rinks bring communities together, there’s always a mini game going on or just free ice to go out and enjoy.”

McPhail arrived at Selkirk College this September after completing his junior hockey career as the captain of the Dryden Ice Dogs where his team captured its league’s 2017 championship. As a rookie on the Selkirk College Saints, McPhail currently leads the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) in goals and is one of the reasons the team sits in first place.

“Playing on an outdoor rink lets your creativity run free, you can come up with your own things and if you think they might work you can test it out in games,” McPhail says of his time spent playing hockey in the fresh outdoor air.

The Blewett outdoor rink project has been made possible by a combination of grant funding, support from businesses and the BCS volunteers who want to create more recreational infrastructure on the site of the former ski hill. Columbia Basin Trust and a Community Works Grant provided $35,000 to the project, Cover Architecture’s Lukas Armstrong prepared the drawings, Kalesnikoff Lumber Co. donated wood, Home Hardware Building Centre contributed plywood and fasteners, and a host of volunteers have put in many hours of work to get the project to this stage.

“It’s been a valuable learning tool for the class and we have had fun putting it together,” says Brazeau. “I look forward to the community of Blewett getting to use this rink once it’s installed.”

Volunteers to help with the installation of the outdoor rinks are still needed. You can contact to get involved.

Selkirk College is currently taking applications for the next Carpentry Foundation Program intake which starts in February, 2018. You can find out more information about the program at or call 250.354.3221.

Categories: Education

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