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CELOS Letter to the CDRC

(Community Development and Recreation Committee of City Council)

Regarding City Councillor Layton's letter to the committee, for the January 17, 2018 agenda, Item CD25.4

Re: Skate lending at city-owned outdoor rinks January 17, 2018

Dear members of the CDRC,

Our organization – CELOS, the Centre for Local Research into Public Space – has recently given our 120-pair mobile skate loan collection to the Friends of Regent Park. A mobile skate lending collection is a big pain in the neck. Moving it out of its shed and sorting the skates and arranging them somewhere different every time, and then packing them all up afterwards and carting them back to their shed, doubles the work of skate lending. Our group doesn’t want to do that anymore.

Regent Rink has a bright, roomy change area with its own reasonable-sized storage room. A quick look at the storage room in December made us think that if the room was cleaned up and the junk removed, the skate bins would fit in there easily. We hoped that if some unused shelving in the main room was adapted, the skates could be available every day for skaters of all ages and abilities.

But Parks and Rec said no.

Many reasons were given why daily skate lending couldn’t work at any neighborhood outdoor rinks (except for three rinks in Ward 18 where it’s been going on for many years). At the end of the day, though, the responsibility for the “no” fell on city council. That was made clear by Parks and Rec’s manager of issues management, Matt Cutler, when he explained the problem to a willing donor who wanted to help. Sorry, he said, skate lending is not part of Parks and Rec’s “council-approved core business.”

So instead there was a resolve in December to have at least a couple of special events at Regent Rink this season, which would include skate loans. The organizers and partners for these events – the Daniels Corp, Artscape, Friends of Regent Park, CRC, CELOS, Dixon Hall and now CSI – agreed that storing the skates right at the rink for the rink season would make the skate-lending part of the events pretty straight-forward.

But yesterday I heard that the Friends of Regent Park will not be allowed to use the storage room, because it’s too full of other stuff. So I asked for another look at the room, to see if my first impression – of enough usable space – was wrong.

But permission to have a second look was refused by city management. They didn’t say why, but I think maybe they’re shy about the mess in there.

The thing is, the problems at the city’s outdoor rinks, taken together, are quite a bit bigger than the Regent Rink storage room, or than the city’s inability to lend out skates. A range of problems need to be acknowledged. In 2005 Jane Jacobs gave a passionate talk, one of her last, during which she said: “if people could just look at their mistakes, and be honest about them, and learn from them, what a lot we could get done.” The reverse is true too – as long as Parks and Rec – and city council, which is in charge of our civic household – doesn’t acknowledge that mistakes have been made at the outdoor rinks, and that in certain specific ways the rinks are in a mess, not a lot will get done.

In the case of skate lending, the ball is surely in your court, councillors. If you want your neighbourhood rinks to be more enjoyable for more of your constituents, you’ll need to change your vote about what the “core business” of parks and outdoor rinks is.

Jane Jacobs also said, if you want neighbourhoods to work better, ask the people who live there. So in December our group got some colourful skate-lending posters made, for putting up at all the city’s outdoor rinks. The posters show the rows of $2 loaner skates lined up on the shelves at Wallace Rink. And they invite skaters to put their heads together with their local rink staff, to see if skate lending would work at their rink. Not all the rinks are the same, so not all the ideas will be the same. But people talking, at different rinks, is a good start, right?

Wrong. Parks and Rec management said we can’t put up any such poster. They said they only allow posters about “community celebrations, events or festivals; City of Toronto meetings, activities or events; or information about public safety.”

Actually, a poster inviting public discussion about skate lending, to make the outdoor rinks nicer, can help with all of those things. It helps with freedom of speech in a public place, as well. Whereas hiding a mess – and blocking public conversation between skaters and front-line staff – can’t help anything.

Previous invitations by CELOS to council committee members, to become more knowledgeable about the outdoor rinks, have been quite unsuccessful. The last rink report requested by your committee from the general manager, in 2016, was so non-specific that it gave people nothing to discuss. Now Councillor Layton’s letter suggests that Parks and Rec general manager Janie Romoff should report back on skate lending, during the hot days of July.

Will this report be different?


Jutta Mason CELOS

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Content last modified on January 17, 2018, at 06:03 AM EST