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posted March 1, 2004
Dear Toronto Parks Staff,
Why is it so difficult to locate the dates when the ice rinks are open on the City's website? I've been burrowing through your website now for 10 minutes and still haven't located it. Is it really so difficult to post a list of rinks and the date they will be ready?
From: Jutta Mason
To: Veronica Pochmursky
Yes Veronica, there IS a way to find out when the rinks open. First, you have to ignore the computer and pick up the phone instead. You call the city number -- but only during DAYTIME WEEKDAY HOURS (8.30 to 4.30) -- 392-1111 -- and then there's a very long list of options unrelated to rinks. But you can <b>skip those and press "0"</b> and talk to a person who has the rink opening lists.
I know that daytime weekday hours are exactly NOT the hours most people are looking for a place to skate. However, if you want to find out anything about rinks in the evenings or on weekends, you'll have to make do with the city's <b>"rink hot line,"</b> which is not a hot line at all, but a <b>LUKEWARM LINE</b> that gives you rink schedule information recorded at the beginning of each rink season. If you want to use that line, make a nice cup of tea first and have a magazine handy. You have to listen to all the introductory stuff each time you ask about an individual rink, so if you want to find out two or three rinks near you, it will take a while. If you try pressing "0" to get a real person, it tells you to hold for an information person, but they're just kidding: you either just get a busy signal or you get the general city information recording, and you have to go around the loop again.
It used to be that you could call individual rinks in every part of Toronto except the former city (which has had a frustrating recorded message for years already). The other outdoor rinks, which are so weather-dependent, had each rink listed separately in the blue pages. That means that after a snowfall you could call the actual rink you wanted, and chances were you'd get a gruff maintenance guy or a rink-guard kid who could tell you whether you should get all suited up and come for a skate, or you shouldn't bother because the ice wasn't open anyway.
The new regime after amalgamation introduced a concept called "harmonization," so that no park facility would have an unfair advantage over one in another part of the city. So they've been patiently HARMONIZING DOWNWARD, gradually replacing the individual rink numbers with a general recorded message number. The 2001-2002 phone book still lists individual rink numbers for West (Etobicoke), East (Scarborough), and North (North York) districts. The 2002-2003 phone book has already got East District on a single lukewarm line, but you can still find out what the individual rink conditions are for North and West Districts. Then by 2003-2004, harmonization is almost complete -- only North District has managed to keep the individual listings; all others have been replaced by lukewarm lines.
This does not mean that the rinks no longer have individual phone lines -- it's just that they're now a secret from the public. The only reason I ever heard for keeping the listings secret is the phones are supposed to be for emergencies. The actual result is that many times after bad weather has resolved (but because of the other rink mainenance "issues" at the city, meaning that often rinks are closed for a long time after a little snow) people have no idea if it's worth bundling up the family to come for a skate.
THERE IS A SIMPLE WAY TO MAKE RINK PHONES WORK BETTER FOR SKATERS. Since there was no city staff interested in finding this solution, WE JUST UNILATERALLY DID IT at Dufferin Rink last winter. We had already asked for and received voice mail (with difficulty) some years before. Now, every day during the rink season -- more often in bad weather -- the rink staff change the voice mail to say what the ice conditions are. We also asked the city to put our number on the "rink hot line" (lukewarm line) recording, saying that we could give out up-to-date rink information for west end rinks in bad weather. And the city said they'd be willing. It didn't cost anything extra -- the rink staff have to be there anyway.
That worked fine, except that people started calling us from all over the city (natch! everyone needs to know). That was still okay except that since we couldn't always get hold of the forepersons for the different regions, we sometimes didn't have the information ourselves. Hopefully we'll get better internal cooperation this winter, and then rink rats and others can go to their various outdoor rinks with confidence.
To harmonize the rink phones down to the lowest level is not acceptable. As long as this situation persists, we will try to be a de facto hot line for the city. It costs no more -- the rink staff have to be there anyway -- they can answer the phones, and if they're out shovelling, they can leave updated recordings. It's not rocket science.
P.s. please forward this message to all rink afficionados and city councillors you can think of. Dufferin Rink can be reached at 416 392-0913.
If we're in the act of telling you rink information and there's a sudden emergency, we'll have to hang up and deal with it. Just call us back an hour later. (It's easy.)
posted March 1, 2004
1. South District/former Toronto is entitled to 6 zambonis for maintaining its 25 current outdoor artificial ice rinks. Of those, 5 were new in recent years.
2. Because 6 vehicles are not enough to maintain 25 rinks, the manager of technical services, Bob Crump, salvaged some old Zambonis and Olympias, from city arenas, that were set to go to auction. Those vehicles function at least part of the time but they need lots of maintenance. When those vehicles finally die, they will not be replaced because they were never part of the rink vehicle allocation in the first place. There is presently no plan in place to address this problem.
3. Zambonis have a lower priority of maintenance in the city's shop than vehicles that may be used for emergencies (e.g. case loaders, ploughs, garbage trucks, forestry vehicles) get first fixing.
4. The city has a so-called "reserve" fund to replace aging vehicles, but that reserve fund is basically empty. So all vehicle replacement now has to come out of the operating budget. We either get better litter-picking OR we get a new zamboni. The operating budget can only spare $4 million a year for Parks and Rec vehicle replacement (or for the whole city? which is it?), but we need $9 million a year. There is presently no plan to address this problem.
5. The previous budget chief got rid of quite a few city vehicles in order to make the fleet smaller and not so expensive to maintain. This means that the remaining vehicles are used harder. There is presently no plan to address this problem.
posted March 1, 2004
Pucks can get stuck in the zamboni. Maintenance staff advise that in most cases it is a simple procedure to remove them, which should take about fifteen to twenty minutes. There are incidents however when the puck gets jammed in the auger and this could take as much has four to six hours to remove the puck. In money it will cost between $360.00 to $400.00 to do a bigger repair of that kind.
posted March 1, 2004
A rink foreperson came by Dufferin rink in the evening and reminded the rink staff that helmets were supposed to be worn by all rink users and that if the rink staff didn't enforce that, they would be liable to be sued.
Find out who posted the signs (we never even saw the people come and post them) and who wrote the content. Post this information and start a discussion. Such a huge regulation can't just be accomplished by edict. Note that many rec staff have noticed that orientation sessions are more and more connected with avoiding liability, less with making park facilities work well for people. This needs more discussion.