Not Skating in Circles

I am delighted to see more skating rinks in parks. I like that the Sens organization is promoting skating by funding ice pads in city parks. And I like the one in front of city hall, especially when its summer and colourful lawn chairs are out.

But could we do even better?

I confess to being initially disappointed that some/many of the Sens pads are not “chilled”, but are weather dependent. Chilled rinks allow for a longer skating season. Open-air-but-with-a-roof like at Canturbury Park would seem to be most useful both winter and summer (I am assuming people are allowed to use the shaded concrete surface in summer).

The first time I saw a chilled outdoor rink when it wasn’t really winter yet, was at the Rockefeller Centre in NYC, one late November. Then I visited Reston, a new town suburb of Washington DC, launched by a single developer and an inspiration, if I recall correctly, for Teron’s Kanata. On their Thanksgiving weekend, amid balmy temperatures, the outdoor ice rink opened, and was packed with people. The Frog Pond on Boston Common also opens at Thanksgiving. Somehow Americans can skate outside when it is warm but we are air temperature dependent. I don’t recall that the old Nepean Centrepointe city hall reflecting pond/skating rink opened early, but that may be just my faulty memory.

The much heralded indoor ice skating rink under the winter garden glass roofs at 240 Sparks ( CD Howe Bldg) never got installed. The concept was nice: glass roofs, waterfalls, ice surface, year round patio under the trees, two story jetson-like elevators shooting skyward. All that remains today are the glass skylight atriums and fenced off elevators. The ice turned to granite, the waterfall dried up, the fiscus trees were renovated away. Must be climate change.

But whether or not the pad is chilled, the outdoor rinks in Ottawa share a common feature. They are ovals. Like hockey rinks. Everyone skates around one way, always turning, seeing the same scenery over and over again. I find it absolutely boring.

Agonizingly boring.

Back in 2013 I noticed this sign in a park in St John’s, NL:

Note the operative word: a trail. Not a small circle. The picture is inspiring. And the chilled ice surface doubles as a walking trail in summer. Here’s some pic I grabbed from the internet of the finished project:

A watering crew:

A “zomboni”:

And in the summer, a trail:

Here is a google earth view of the trail and loop:

I think of this better-as-a-trail ice surface whenever I go to our city hall in the winter. Or see the Lansdowne Park “rink”. When the Sens announced their program of funding outdoor rinks, I suggested to my local rec assoc and councillor that we might find it easier to locate a trail in urban parks, maybe tracing the park perimeter, than a paved ice pad somewhere in the centre. I got blank stares.

Then last year a woodland trail opened on the Gatineau side, creating an option for those who can drive there and enjoy the rural setting.

Here is a skating trail in Daly Park,  Chicago:

When the Sens consortium proposed redevelopment of the LeBreton Flats, I was disappointed to see outdoor skating only on the aqueduct, which is much smaller than the “artists impression” implied, and of course, they never checked with the city to see if the idea might fly, given the “historic” aqueduct status and the huge waterpipe laying just inches below the surface of the water.

Since then Mayor Jim has announced the city isn’t interested in any of the fancy smancy park ideas of the Sens if that would raise the maintenance cost to the city (compared to what? a flat field in Barrhaven??)

So last fall I suggested that the NRCan redevelopment project proposed for Booth Street might incorporate a combo summer walkway and skate loop instead of just a lawn for office tower refugees to eat lunch on. To their credit, they seemed to think the idea was worth looking at, space wise.


(above: NRCan redevelopment site, artists impression of one possible configuration, developed in the early stages of conceptualization)

Meanwhile, the city is slowing coming to the realization that “natural grass” isn’t a useful surface for the plaza in front of City Hall.

May I suggest that when the hard surfacing and raised planter beds are being designed, we could install a paved trail around the whole plaza, perhaps running from the Laurier ped crosswalk, around the east side of the City Hall, to the Lisgar front yard or maybe even  to include the lawn alongside the historic wing. A delightful walkway in summer, skateway in winter.

Consider it my contribution to coping with climate change.


January 5 edit:   Toronto hosts other cities (Ottawa too??) to see their new urban skateway:

January 7 edith: here’s a clip from reader Hans, of a skating trail in Quebec.

5 thoughts on “Not Skating in Circles

  1. Quebec City also has a beautiful skating trail in the wintertime:'hiver+de+la+Pointe-aux-Li%C3%A8vres/@46.8220247,-71.2359577,17.5z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x4cb896153a6a8ca5:0x4a6fc9b5a47bd58c!8m2!3d46.8216251!4d-71.2353797?hl=en

    It’s a good 1.5km in a park next to the St. Charles river (the ice basically covers the paths that are normally there). There’s also a small sledding hill for the kids! Heated trailers for putting on, renting and sharpening skates (and getting a hot chocolate!) are on-site and there’s small zamboni that keeps the ice smooth.

    I’m sure Ottawa has many sites that could easily be transformed over the winter…

    Side-note: instead of a temporary skating rink in front of Parliament, maybe something like the Halifax Oval would have been better? (and for almost the same price tag)…

    1. Marc: definitely looks like folks living east of us are getting some better winter skating facilities ! Over the last 40 years, I’ve seen Ottawa go from an innovator (often driven by the NCC) to a complacent middle of the pack place, to a laggard or late adopter of what is proven to work elsewhere. I’d rather we were faster followers.

      1. Another reader sends this link to a lengthy linear skating trail – complete with photo – under construction in the centre of the universe: Opinion | 2018 will be a year of major transition for Toronto, from the torStar. Now I feel Ottawa is even more of a laggard, even in winter.

  2. We live in a green jewel of a city. I love it. One off my regrets is that we refused to allow the Dutch people to put a windmill beside Dow’s Lake. Is it too late to change our minds on that?

  3. The Canterbury rink just opened, so I can’t say what we will be allowed to do with the concrete pad in the summer.

    Fyi, councillor Cloutier says he came up with the open air covered and refrigerated rink idea after seeing something similar in Toronto. So we were followers there too. This is a conservative city.

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