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Despite a "winter storm warning" in the weather forecast, lots of skaters came to the rink, and even kept on skating when the rain began. The warming fire in the woodstove and Mary Sylwester's spicy farmers' market soup helped out when the chill began to sink in too deep.
The zamboni has a defective blade so it couldn't scrape the ice very well. The mixed snow turned to just rain, covering the ice with water -- but there were a lot of bumps.
Mel Lastman Rink was supposed to open yesterday, according to the city web site and the staff report to city councillors. Until Friday, the city's "rink hot-line" still carried the 2007/2008 schedule information for this rink. Then the message was changed to say that Mel Lastman Rink would open on December 6. Confusion!
The reality is even more confusing. The rink has ice, with snow on top. There are skate marks, but at 11 a.m. there's only a little kid with his toy tractors, pushing the snow around. The city should take a leaf from his book -- Mel Lastman Rink needs a tractor, or even better, a zamboni, to deliver on the city's promises.
A hunt for staff to find out when maintenance will happen leads into the former city hall building, which is open but ghostly empty. Finally we encounter an older gentleman, who directs us upstairs to the security desk. He says, there's no one working here today -- come to think of it, there's no one working here any other day either!
Upstairs there are two security staff at the desk. The sign above their heads says "Access Toronto." But sadly, they don't know when the rink is supposed to open and be maintained for skaters. No one has told them. But they think that maybe the ice has been in for a week already. They've tried to tell would-be skaters to stay off it, but they say it's impossible -- the skaters just come back when they're not looking.
North York seems to have careful approach to materials, if not to people. Their rubber times are all laid down for the skaters -- very nice interlocking tiles, like jigsaw puzzle pieces. The outdoor rinks in other parts of the city would love to have some of those.
Click on pictures to enlarge
Albert Campbell Square Rink was scheduled to open yesterday, according to the city web site and the staff report to city councillors. And it did open yesterday, with very good ice. There were three skaters on the ice today at 11.30 a.m., and three rink guards -- a luxurious ratio of 1:1.
The rink guards said that yesterday wasn't very busy either. That may be because of confusing information. The city's "rink hot-line" still has the end-of-season message from last March, and it ends with the message: "Leisure skating will return weather permitting in December 2008." It then directs rink users to the Access Toronto line, as though that was a direct line: "For information at this location, contact Albert Campbell Square at 416 338-0338." But that line -- it's just the city's central information line downtown -- is only active on weekdays between 8 and 5.
Weather: High 5 celsius, low -2. Cloudy with occasional faint sun.
The rink opened, and despite the crush of people skating, and staff having to put pylons up (and one trip-and-fall on a cement patch) the rink stayed open.
Ice maintenance staffing is still not settled. At one point in the afternoon, there were suddenly three rink operators instead of one. When a broken hockey net was pointed out to the senior worker, he said that he was not actually in the program, he was only there as a favour (he didn't mention, to whom) and therefore he had no reason to make sure the net was repaired. No foreperson or supervisor came by. The zamboni dumped the snow in various places that will be hard to clean up. In the evening, one zamboni operator refused to clean the ten feet of ice at the east end of the pleasure rink because he was afraid he would hit the railing at the edge.
Start-up problems! But hopefully they will soon be ironed out.
Window-smashing story: Last April, soon after the end of the rink season, the windows of the rink house were smashed four different times within two weeks. That has never happened before at this rink. It probably cost the city over $2000 to do all the repairs to the large, heavy-duty windows.
After the third time, a park neighbour began to keep a bit of a look-out. On a Sunday afternoon, the neighbour heard the sound of breaking glass and looked out his upstairs window. He saw three boys, two of them quite short, with an iron bar. So he ran down his stairs and over to the rink. The boys took off. The neighbor followed them, trying not to be seen, and called me (Jutta) on his cellphone. The boys doubled back to fetch the skateboard one of them had forgotten. By then I had got there on my bike. The neighbour showed me the kids, but they took off again and spread out, and I couldn't catch them, even on my bike. But I saw their faces.
Today two of those window-smashing boys came back to the rink, hoping to skate. Over the next hour, a little drama played out, as I identified the boys to the staff and we watched them, and they alternately tried to make themselves invisible or to act unconcerned. The staff called the police. Even before the policeman got there, the boys' story began to unravel.
It emerged that the boys had solid families who were interested in collaborating on what to do about these young vandals, and contact was made. For now, the policeman gave the boys Trespass Orders, and the staff are setting up a meeting between the boys, their families, and Tino DeCastro, the Recreation supervisor. The aim is to get the boys to do community hours at the rink, so they can earn their way back into a place where they desperately want to be, and where their friends are. The extra benefit is the boys' exposure to the recreation staff as they work under their supervision. They need some guidance, and from this excellent staff, they can get it. Other rink users can help as well. That's one of the very good things about having a neighbourhood rink.