Paul Brault is a self-confessed "tinkerer" and he’s using his latest creation to help his Deer Pointe neighbours.
When Brault and his wife Catherine Moltzan decided to build a home in Headingley’s Deere Point Park development, one of the attractions of the site was the large retention pond behind their property. Brault said they enjoy watching the waterfowl, deer and other animals that are drawn to the pond in the spring, summer and fall. In the winter, Brault and neighbours clear snow off the frozen pond to create a rink for skating and playing hockey.
"But we always had sort of a rough surface," Brault said, and this problem awakened his inner inventor.
Using his John Deere riding lawn mower as a base, Brault added a front-end plow to clear snow. Looking through the clearance bins at a Winnipeg automotive parts store, he found most of the pieces he needed to modify the tractor’s rear and create a mini ice-clearing machine.
"I had to figure out a couple of things," he said. "It was a lot of playing around."
Brault, who is a certified electrician with an engineering degree, placed a plastic spray tank, commonly used to spray weeds, on a metal rack that he attached to the back of the tractor. He hooked up a pump that sends hot water from the tank through a row of nozzles. The final piece is a bath mat and shovel head that Brault drags behind the tractor to spread the hot water evenly across the ice.
He said he had to adjust the nozzle size because the first set produced a mist rather than droplets of water.
In the very cold weather, the bath mat will freeze to the ice surface strongly enough to stop the tractor from moving forward.
Brault has cleared a pathway from his garage down to the pond so he can easily drive the tractor there and back. He’s managed to keep the rink in good condition and his family and the surrounding neighbours have played hockey and skated there over the winter months.
"It brings the neighbourhood together."
A heavy snowfall in January has limited the rink’s size, he said, but there’s enough room to have fun.
Brault is excited about the two ice bikes he bought in China and rides on the rink. The bikes are equipped with two metal blades that allow the bike to glide across an even surface.
Brault said he and Moltzan first saw a similar sort of ice bike used by riders of all ages on a frozen lake in Beijing. They were intrigued and Brault decided to invest in two bikes.
He believes that they could become a popular attraction in Manitoba and possibly be featured on The Forks river trails if the ice surface is smooth enough.
"They’re lots of fun."
Community journalist — The Headliner
Andrea Geary is the community journalist for The Headliner. Email her at email@example.com Call her at 204-697-7124