Mansfield Outdoor Centre open this winter

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Mansfield Outdoor Centre is open this winter with the goal of being a community hub and giving people a much needed outlet for connection and recreation.

The facility is under the management of Jeanette McFarlane, who has taught and held events at the facility in the past. She has a great appreciation for the facility and is embracing the opportunity to make a great spot for the community.

During a two-year closure, the previous owner group decided to sell the facility and enjoy retirement after 36 years of ownership and a steep decline in outdoor education due to teacher strikes, followed by the pandemic.

The facility sold in May to an anonymous buyer. In an attempt to dispel rumours, McFarlane said the facility has not been purchased by Mansfield Ski Club.

Mansfield Outdoor Centre hosted camps in the summer and as soon as there is a decent amount of snow, the facility will be available for a range of winter sports.

“We need to get outdoors more and we’ve been trying so hard here at the Outdoor Centre to add more outdoor activity because, as we’ve just gone into another lockdown, people need to get outside for their own well being,” said McFarlane.

“We all need to be out in nature. When you’re cooped up you really start to see the value of nature in your life, and the absence of it.”

The team has been working on extending trails, they have built a new outdoor skating rink which will be ready for use as soon as it freezes, an interpretive snowshoe trail, hiking, cross-country skiing, and fat bike trails with Team Van Go’s Johnny Yeaman.

There are plans to have special events under the full moon and there is a cozy lounge with a fireplace where people can warm up after their outdoor activity. McFarlane said plans to bring in high quality food from Maple Grove Farm are on hold until current restrictions are lifted and indoor dining is allowed, hopefully at the end of the month.

McFarlane is also planning to tie in the mental health benefits of being active outdoors with an event on Bell Let’s Talk Day on Wednesday, Jan. 26. From afternoon into the evening, the public is invited to use the facility for a special access fee of $10, and make s’mores and hotdogs over an outdoor fire (additional fees apply).

“It’s acknowledging that being cooped with Covid isn’t fun, so let’s do something fun for the community,” said McFarlane. “The whole essence around the Outdoor Centre is to make it a great spot for community. That is the heartbeat going forward.”

Mansfield Outdoor Centre is located at 937365 Airport Road in Mulmur. For admission info, visit Ski, snowshoe, and fat bike rentals are available.

Photo: A new outdoor skating rink at Mansfield Outdoor Centre awaits stable cold temperatures, but is otherwise ready to go. The new rink is part of an effort to expand activities at the Outdoor Centre and become a place for the community to gather and be well.

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