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Local couple finds unique way to 'bring community closer together'

Local residents bought a trail groomer and have developed six kilometres of cross-country trails on Lake Couchiching that anyone is welcome to use
new tamara-and-rick-schaly
Tamara Schaly and her husband Rick have created six kilometres of cross-country ski trails on Lake Couchiching for community use.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the winter months a little more challenging for folks looking for exercise this year.

One of the rare activities open to the public to this point has been cross-country skiing, which many people have been taking advantage of, including Tamara Schaly and her husband, Rick.

“With COVID everybody is trying to find things to do outside, so in November we decided to buy cross country skies to add to our exercise for the winter months,” Schaly said.

After finding resorts a little expensive, the Schalys tried to ski in their own backyard on Couchiching Point Road.

“We would go on the ice with our skis, but it became difficult as the more snow we got the more snow we had to trench through,” Schaly explained.

The Schalys turned to the Internet and started researching what they could do to create a better local ski experience. In the end, they decided it was time to purchase a ski trail groomer and a snowmobile so they could create trails on the lake.

“The ice rinks on Couch are amazing, there are some fish huts out there, and even some kiteboarders, so we wanted to help cross country skiers get out, too,” Schaly said.

The Schalys got to work this past Saturday, creating six kilometres of trails that begin at Tudhope Park beside the snowmobile trails, and wrap all the way around the lake.

“It paid for itself in the very first day in just the people we met that saw us out there and realized there were groomed trails,” Schaly said.

“We met a lady who had heart surgery just three months ago and was unable to ski with her poles. The groomed trails helped her immensely, so she can add skiing back into her exercise, which felt very rewarding.”

The Schalys were inspired to make the trails after seeing how other groups and families got creative to keep busy during the pandemic.

“I think it’s really important for us to come together in the pandemic and help make each other stronger,” Schaly said.

“Nothing feels better than giving back to the community by giving families something to do during the month of February, which is always a tough month for everybody, especially during this pandemic.”

Schaly says seeing the community using the trails warms her heart and brings her joy during these dark times of uncertainty.   

“It gives me a lot of energy just being able to chat with people outside at a social distance. It feels like it’s bringing our community closer together,” she said.

Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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