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Re: front page article National Post October 31st - sent to the editor of the National Post and A.Vaughn
Councillor Denzil Minan-Wong has his priorities straight. Last year, the children in my area read in shock how they were going to shut down the skating at Ramsden Park because of lack of funds. Mastercard Canada came up with the emergency money. Now, I read that the city is using $40 million to make over Nathan Phillips Square during the next five years. In the face of childhood obesity and the desperate need for public access to fitness and fun, I ask that the city councillors look to funding our local skating rinks. They are in sore need of repair, and given how few options there are in the winter to exercise in the inner city, this would be money used prudently.
shinny at Ramsden: The good news is that you don't have to sign up or pay a dime; you just show up and play :) The only requirement is that you wear a helmet although most people also wear hockey gloves.
The City usually assigns an instructor to help out with some drills for the first 1/2 hour, and then we play for an hour or so.
There are also other times at Dufferin Grove and Hodgson - both also free and require no sign-up.
Subject: Urgent Up-date on Ramsden Rinks
Hi Friends of Ramsden:
I want to bring you up-to-date on the Ramsden rinks, which are scheduled to open next weekend. I have had a number of conversations about the operation of the rinks including a meeting with city staff and want to both pass on what I have learned, and to ask you for some urgent help. Here is some background before I get to issues before us. The rink opens this Saturday, December 6th.
Right up front, let me emphasize one thing. Almost everyone on city staff that I have had contact with have been cooperative and would like to make the rink experience a good one. Almost all are good people. But to make the rinks work, we have to identify the problems. (Read more).
At 11.30 on opening day, there was only a rink guard at the rink, and he said the building attendant hadn't shown up. The rink guard said he had gone into the storage garage and had rolled out some of the rubber mats (none had been laid out by the Parks workers). He said he was able to get into the garage because the other room (staff room?) was unlocked and the keys were on the table, even though there was no other staff person there. Behind him, the zamboni could be seen in the garage, with its hood up. The ice looked thick enough but obviously not yet scraped or flooded by a zamboni -- there were a lot of leaves on the pleasure-skating side. The rink mats didn't reach far enough so a hockey player was crawling on his hands and knees to get to the pleasure-skating side, so as not to dull his skates.
However there was a lively shinny hockey game, and the players said the ice was not bad. There are some new boards up, but they haven't been painted yet -- too late now.
There was a pretty big mess near the entrance to the change room, and in fact there were still old pieces of dasher boards with nails sticking out of them, lying on the ground. It seems like the Parks workers must have left in a hurry some days before, with everything half done, and never returned to get the rink ready.
Returning at 1.30: a new zamboni driver was in the staff room, but she said the zamboni was out of order. She knew this not from trying it but from getting a phone call. The flying squad was just arriving to do the ice.
At 1 pm there were five hockey players and five pleasure skaters sharing the pleasure-skating ice. It soon became apparent why -- the hockey rink had a sign and a strong smell of fresh paint. Inside the rink change house, about a dozen young men and women in Toronto Maple Leafs t-shirts (and paint spatters) were having lunch, in the company of a City staff person from the Parks and Recreation Partnership office. They said they were giving back to the community by painting the hockey boards. Since the City carpenters hadn't done it as they did in other rinks, corporate volunteers took on the job. The boards certainly looked better than on the rink's opening day.
However the fence rolls and old kickboard lumber were still by the rink change room entrance.
Ice was good, though.
20 pleasure skaters and 15 hockey players, most but not all in helmets. Ice is good. Mats are nicely laid out and clear of snow. Path to the rink from the parking alley is full of snow though. There are no holiday schedules available to take home or helmets to borrow. The on-site zamboni does ice 3 or 4 times a day regularly. ON the bulletin board there's a blueprint and an announcement that there will be a new rebuild of the rink changeroom and zamboni room. One great thing they plan to add is a window from the changeroom onto the ice. However there doesn't seem to be a plan to put a window into the staff room. The community is asked to add their thoughts re the rebuild; however there are no forms left.
At 1.30 pm the rink had lots of people skating and parent-child shinny on the hockey pad. The pleasure-skating pad ice looked good despite the scheduled absence of Christmas Day ice maintenance. The rain on Wednesday evening was like a free scrape and flood, so that all the rinks that had their snow plowed off earlier on Wednesday had smooth, hard ice on Christmas morning. On the hockey side, the nets had been pulled in toward the west, suggesting that the ice on the east side might be a bit rough.
The rink change rooms were open, although no staff was in sight. A knock at the windowless office door did not get an answer, but another knock, and opening the door, revealed a building attendant sitting at the desk, with his arm in a sling. He didn't have much to say, except that he didn't know anything about how the ice clearing went on rainy Wednesday. He said he was just filling in for someone.
A hand-lettered sign on the change room door said "No ice maintenance today. Rink closes at 6 pm SHARP."
On the ice, people seemed to be enjoying their skating a great deal -- lots of smiles and "Merry Christmas" greetings, and "bravo's" for the big scorers on the shinny hockey side.
Inside the change room, the new bulletin board had been put up, with a drawing of a proposed rink building renovation, long overdue. The drawing showed a larger "activity room" (skate change room) and a smaller staff room. Right now the staff room is as big as the change room, and it looks as though it may at one time have been a team change room.
The bulletin board also had a request for community ideas about the renovation. Hopefully someone, staff or skater, will suggest a window in the staff room. Invisible staff make no sense! And the staff should be able to see the rink from inside, as well.
Late in the day some more news came from the adult shinny group. It sounds like the large message gap between the maintenance staff and the program staff in this department has had a few particularly bad effects at this rink. The traditional Christmas morning shinny game got bumped by children's shinny, despite assurances given to the adult group, right from the Parks director's office, that their game was a go.
At 8 pm the rink changeroom had a sign on it "rink closed due to weather." This was despite a City "rink hotline" announcement saying all the rinks were open. The hockey side was wet and showed no sign of maintenance. The pleasure-skating side had four skaters playing hockey, since the water had mostly run off and the ice was fairly free of puddles.
It appears that the area rink supervisor had sent all the zamboni staff home for their afternoon shift, presumably on full pay, and turned off his pager, so that rink staff could not reach him to ask about ice maintenance. By contrast, Rennie Rink had hourly ice maintenance and was able to run an all-day tournament with only one game cancelled. The ice was good there.
11.50 a.m. The game was on, although there were only 11 players, meaning that some of them looked wiped -- two hours with no subs! The rink attendant said he had cleaned the ice with the rink scrapers before 9 a.m. (he said a few people helped), so it was in good shape despite the lack of zamboni staff. On New Year's Day only the Etobicoke rinks had zamboni staff.
12.45 a.m. e-mail from R.Y. to cityrinks.ca: I live at--- and every night I have to call the non emergency Police to come down to Ramsden rink and get the hockey players off the ice. I do work in the morning and they wake me up EVERY NIGHT. I know the doors are not locked and just the lights are turned off!!!!!!!! Why is THAT??????? Leaving the players on the ice for however long they want to play. I have made numerous calls and nothing has been done.
I would suggest they lock all the doors. And as usual it is 12:45 AM and I will be call the police again!!!
I know nothing will be done, because what can we do it's not our job.
The cityrinks.ca website is not a municipal website, but we are passing on your very understandable complaint to City management (cc'd above, if you want to contact them directly). The Ramsden Rink staff building attendant who closes the building must be directed to also lock the rink gates, since the rink is close to houses and the sound of the hockey playing after hours is disturbing your sleep.
I've just spoken to the Ramsden rink building attendant and he confirms your experience -- that the staff lock up the nets but not the gates to the rink. I'll call them again after 4 pm, to ask if the woman on duty on the closing shift can start the ball rolling to lock the gates when the staff leave at night. It may be that she needs to speak with her supervisor on Monday before she can receive direction to lock the gates, but at least she can become more aware of the problem.
I'm familiar with a similar situation we had at Dufferin Rink. The staff left the gates open for years, until a rink neighbour came over one day and said: "this is wrecking my sleep!!" The neighbour is a strong supporter of the rink but she said that people were playing hockey at 2 and 3 in the morning. So the staff locked the rink at night from then on. Even so, people climbed the fence occasionally. So the rink staff put up a big sign on a chair they set right in the middle of the rink. And when the next night-time hockey game began, the neighbour came over to the rink and spoke to those shinny players, pointing to the sign. This involved the neighbour putting on clothes and going out into the cold, but she said it was still better than lying in bed, hopping mad.
The shinny players told her they were shift workers hoping to have some after-work fun, but they could see her point. These folks are usually not mean, just thoughtless, and it helps a lot for them to see the effect of their noise. (No need to yell, either -- the obvious misery of a person with a bed-head and a pajama sleeve sticking out of their coat can be really quite embarrassing to the hockey players.) After two friendly but firm visits from the neighbour, they didn't come back.
Please let us know if the City staff get back to you and solve your problem, or if it recurs. We will keep on following up as long as necessary, and I think you'll find that City staff take this problem seriously too.
Hi there -- here's the first bit of follow-up: I just spoke to a nice rink staff named Annemarie, who works only on weekend evenings (as a rink building attendant). She says they used to lock up the rink last year but now they use those chains and padlocks to just chain up the nets. Maybe they just need to get a couple of new chains and locks and then they can secure the rink at night too.
She have me two numbers that you can call to get this problem fixed:
1. immediate rink coordinator: Danielle at 416 990-1084 2. rink co-ordinator's boss: Jonah at 416 392-1783.
It does not matter whether the nets are locked, they just want to play hockey!! If the gates were locked last year, I do not see why they cannot be locked this year. I have already spoke with Jonah, ( I also went through this last year with him.) Jonah suggested I come up with a solution, LOCK THE GATES! On Wednesday December 31/08 I left a message for both he and Danielle, whom I have also spoke with, very sweet and understanding but I have not heard back from either of them. Maybe they have the week off.
I do not like calling the police every night, but I have to work in the morning, and my work and home life are suffering as a result of this.
"The solution is straightforward, as you mention -- staff can lock the gates at the end of every evening shift -- and the line of responsibility is also clear. Please let us know if this problem gets resolved this coming week. Hopefully the Recreation manager for Toronto and East York, Lucky Boothe, will give the necessary direction."
E-mail from R.Y. to cityrinks.ca. cc Recreation manager Lucky Boothe "Re Update - the staff returned my call yesterday saying locks were ordered? There must be locks and chains somewhere where they do not have to wait for them to arrive. (I did not ask how long it would take) My mistake! I have not heard any more. Last night Monday January 5th 2009 slamming the puck against the boards until 3AM! I am looking older than my actual age."
Great, Lucky responded. and took the first step.
But if the midnight hockey crew climb over the fence, or find a way to get a key, my offer stands. (We could also tell them about a few rinks that are left open and NOT near houses. Exercise is good, even at 3 a.m., but not at the cost of people's sleep.)
The rec staff at the rinks around here are pretty adventuresome and they were bothered when I told them your "sleepless at____" story. They were ready to come along (on their own time) and negotiate in the middle of the night, if needs be. We all love rink rats -- only we want them to behave well.
E-mail from R.Y. to recreation manager Lucky Boothe, cc cityrinks.ca Thanks for responding so quickly but it is 2:30 AM and I just called the police again. this is ridiculas. There are trespassing signs posted, maybe they should be enforced! I am not calling anyone at home to go to the rink, just go to Ramsden rink anytime after 12 Midnight, there is always a game going on!!!. And I am tired of calling the Police (they have better things to do)
E-mail from R.Y. to Recreation manager Lucky Boothe and cityrinks.ca I have not heard any late night hockey in the last few early evenings. I will keep you posted and I want to say Thank You for all your help in this matter, I really do appreciate it and also for the quick reponse that I received.
Well you're pretty nice to call it a quick response if you've been talking to rec staff since last year and this is your first winter-season week off the midnight hockey. But it's wonderful to hear that it's quiet now. Your idea of locks was a good one, and maybe one of the staff knew the players and shooed them away. Or maybe Lucky got the night-time Corporate Security staff to come around.
A couple of e-mails back you wrote that you were looking older than your years from so many interrupted sleeps. I hope your youth is back now! Your e-mails reminded me that warning shinny players about late-night noise is always good -- I put this bit into the Dufferin Rink January newsletter cityrinks.ca item:
At 9.30 pm, there was a fast shinny game on the hockey side, and on the pleasure-skating side there were two pleasure-skaters and three hockey players, no rink guards. Maybe the staff shifts end earlier on Fridays.
On a very sunny day, 2.15 pm there's no sound of compressors running and the ice is mushy. The hockey side is closed and only half the pleasure-skating side is open. The staff say that the compressors seem to be down and they're waiting for somone to come and look.
The zamboni driver shows me the zamboni and tells me she always wanted to drive one, since she was very small. "My dad took me to a hockey game and I said -- that's what I want to do, I want to drive the machine that cleans the ice." She says she's a big Leafs fan, too.