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What Rink Users Say

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From Barclay Hope, November 2001

I am a parent of a seven year old girl, a nine year old girl, and a four year old hockey fanatic. I am forty-three years old and still play hockey. I am finding it increasingly difficult to explain to my son why he can't skate on the hockey rinks when there is ice on the streets. He was on the News one year when the weather had turned warm, but not warm enough to turn the artificial ice to mush. The cameraman had other people to shoot, but he chose Charlie, with his crossover turns and his sliding stops at the age of two and a half. When he has trouble going to sleep I lie beside him and whisper, recounting each step of the trip to the rink, the tying of the skates, the conditions of the ice, the hot chocolate afterwards. He sleeps. He wants to sleep with his skates on. Trite but true.

The children in our house don't watch TV. They don't play video games. They don't watch videos. They don't play on the computer. In this day of mass communication, we refuse to let them leave the real world of children. They play and fight and laugh and scream and sing. We try our best not to let them become insulated.

Now we are told the rinks will live shorter lives. Cutbacks. Hmm. I hope there will still be public rinks when Charlie is old enough to get up at 5 a.m. to get in a few hours of shinny in the dark before school like I did. I understand cutbacks, and when you think about it, they're just hockey rinks. They're just Canadian hockey rinks. We'll go and play video hockey.

September 11 changed everything. Let's change the way we think. Let's work for future generations. In Canada, they're not just hockey rinks.

From Jacqueline Peeters, November 2001

I was very upset, disappointed, and discouraged to hear that Toronto outdoor ice rinks will be opening almost a month later than traditionally. They are vital centres of our communities, particularly for families and young people during the winter months. This is particularly true for lower income people who are less likely to be able to afford programs at the indoor rinks or heading off to the ski hills.


From Veronica Pochmursky, Dec.2, 2003

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?

I went to Ramsden Rink today, fully expecting it to be open because I knew that Dufferin Grove was, and they usually open at the same time. Much to my suprise, not only was the rink not open, it appears that ice making hasn't even begun! What is the problem? With the torrential rains last week, it would have been a perfect time to initiate ice making to take advantage of the natural flooding. Free water. Doesn't that count as a good cost savings initiative, not to mention the environmental benefit?

Could you please let me know when Ramsden Rink will be open.

From shinny hockey player Richard Sanger, Dec.15 2003

This seems typical--at 4pm today I phoned the Ramsden rink to ask if the rink was open. I got someone on the other end who said they were just clearing it off (I think I heard a machine too) but then added that the rink was closing at 6 pm and they probably wouldn't be finished by then and if they were there would be at best "half an hour of skating"... Why would it take two guys so long with a machine? I could do it with a shovel in half that time. And why did the guy give me the impression he just didn't want anyone to come skating?

From Ramsden Rink shinny hockey player Gar Mahood, Dec.20 2003

There were problems with ice maintenance last weekend and some folks were upset. I wasn’t there. Snow had accumulated and the attendants would not release the shovels so volunteers could clean the rink. This ran counter to the understanding that we struck last year about the shovels after about a three-year battle. So we thought we had lost ground. It seemed that we were back to the old position that the city would not clean the ice and it wouldn’t let us clean the ice either, a non-option.


From Harry Gairey Rink parent Richard Sanger, Dec. 10 2004

3 pm on Saturday December 10th I head over to Harry Gairey rink with my 9 year old son and his 12 year old friend to skate and play hockey; it's snowing so I bring a shovel in case there's no-one around to clear the ice; In the change room there are three young P and R employees: one reading the Sun, two mopping the same spot repeatedly. I ask why the rink is closed. They say because it's snowing. I spend 20 minutes lookiing for the Rink operator who has made this baffling decision. He seems to have disappeared and I give up.


From Caroline Lindberg (Trinity Rink parent), to Mayor Miller, Oct. 18 2005.

I have heard that the opening of the city's outdoor ice rinks will be delayed until December 10 for budgetary reasons. My family uses the outdoor ice rinks several times each week. Already, my kids are saying they can hardly wait for the local rink to open. Not only is the rink a place for recreation, but it is a place where neighbours meet and get to know one another. Even if the rinks open on December 3, it's a short season – please don't make it even shorter.

From Alan Carlisle, Nov.26 2005

When i was a kid in Montreal, we all pitched in to warrant our obsession of skating and hockey...At least 20 snow shovels were available and as the ice became snowy, we would stop hockey and almost everyone would grab a shovel and within a few minutes (many hands make lite work), the game would resume.. the down side was at least once a season, i would get run into by a big guy and get smacked hard to the ice... not good.. we all cried when the march thaw made a lake of our beloved rinks the horse buns from the ice-cleaning froze and we always had a puck.. even if it was made of half digested oats..

From Richard Sanger, letter to Mayor David Miller, Dec.4 2005

What exactly is the city's policy regarding skating on Grenadier Pond? This afternoon I went for a very nice walk with my family through the West Ravine woods and along the shore and saw that ice was already beginning to form on the pond's surface. I also saw those killjoy signs up saying No Skating No Access. Will they remain up all year long like they did last year?

Not so very long ago (but long before "Wintercity", "Winterlicious" and "Toronto Unlimited") the city encouraged people to skate on the pond in winter: the ice was cleared in an oval, and fires were lit on the shore for people to warm up by. I have had many of the best skates of my life on that pond. I even know a now-married couple that first met skating there. But now I go there with my children (who also love skating) and have to explain to them what seems to me a rather complicated (and not very edifying) lesson in legalistic duplicity i.e. sometimes when it says "no skating" it doesn't really mean that; it just means that that is what the city's lawyers told the city to say so that the city wouldn't get into trouble.

Can't we just go back to "Dangerous Ice; skate at your own risk"? And when the ice is absolutely safe, shouldn't we encourage people to skate there?

From Caroline Lindberg to Brenda Librecz, general manager of Parks, Foresty and Recreation, Dec. 12 2005

Dear Ms. Librecz - I was disappointed by the City's decision not to open the ice rink at Trinity Bellwoods before December 10. I hope that next year consideration will be given to opening by the first weekend in December.

With the cold weather we had last week we really missed having the rink available. I wondered about the fact that we didn't see much going on in terms of preparation but assured my kids that the rink would open on the weekend. But Sunday morning, when we headed over to the rink for shinny, we discovered that City staff were there with a hose, putting down yet another layer. The rink wasn't ready! My twelve-year-old daughter would like to know why the rink wasn't ready even though we were promised that it would be. What should I tell her?


From shinny hockey player Patrick Scantlebury, Jan. 26 2006

Just a quick note re Wallace rink.

I use this rink at least 1x per week and the ice is never in very good condition. A couple of weeks ago we [played shinney for 4 hours and no one showed up to surface the ice. During the last 2 hrs the ice really started to deteriorate. I had some time this morning at 11 am and wanted to go skating. The ice was terrible. Staff had not cleared the light dusting of snow (approx 1/2 inch) so I went to Dufferin and the ice was great.

It appears that there are funds/resources allocated for maintenance.

  • Are these resources used effectively?
  • What are the standards of service?
  • Are these being met?
From David Howard, Feb.2 2006

The outdoor rink in our neighbourhood (Rosedale Park) is a disgrace. It seems as if the City doesn't want to have a rink there at all and does its best to discourage the community from using it by failing to maintain it.

A couple of years ago, after a large snowfall, when the rink wasn't shoveled two days later, a few of the local residents showed up with shovels and began clearing the rink so our kids could skate. When a City Works supervisor showed up, he ordered us off the rink and locked the door even though we all agreed that we would sign waivers if we were injured.

The City staff didn't get around to shoveling for another day and half.

From teacher Sally Bliss to City Councillors Sandra Bussin and Paula Fletcher, Dec.12 2006

I'm a teacher at Greenwood Secondary School at Greenwood and Danforth. As you know, all our students are new Canadians. Last year, I started an after school skating program to introduce them to the joys of skating and get them "Active on Ice", during what can otherwise be quite a miserable season for many. With donations of used hockey skates and helmets, we'd walk 5 minutes over to Monarch Park's rink to use during public skating hours. The program was hugely popular! In September when school resumed, the first question a student from Iraq asked was, "When does skating start again, Ms?"

We'll, it was suppose to start today, but because of the mild weather, the rink at Monarch is a mess. I phoned Matty Eckler Community Centre at noon and they said that it would most likely be closed. I stopped by the rink at 4pm and the attendent didn't know if the zamboni would be coming or not.

While I understand that warm weather can be a nuisance in maintaining rinks, I can't help but be frustrated at the inconsistency across the city. Last year on 3 or 4 occasions, Monarch shut down while other rinks remained in operation. The best place to skate in the city is at Dufferin Grove Park because they've got an incredibly involved community. I just phoned them to find out that not only are their rinks open, but the ice is also "great".

I have no doubt that East Enders love hockey, skating, parks and community space just as much as the Dufferin Grove folks. We just might not be as mobilized, or well-resourced. At Monarch there's one lonely bench to tie your skates up on. While there are benches in the changeroom--there's no rubber to walk out on. Last year the attendant told my students to just walk on the concrete with their skates. When I did class field trips in school time, I would take students across the city to Dufferin Grove, where helmets and skates were available for loan, chairs allowed on the ice to support beginner skaters, woodstove and hot chocolate steaming to warm toes...What a difference!

I'm hoping you can put a little pressure on Parks and Recreation to bring the facility and maintenance standards at Monarch Park at least a little closer to those enjoyed by our Dufferin Grove neighbours.


From rink friend Tracy Heffernan, Sept.13 2007

Dear Councillors, I am writing to urge you not to postpone the opening of the outdoor skating rinks. Every year for the past several years we have seen an erosion of the rink season. Yet, like public libraries, rinks are one of those essential services that help maintain a vibrant community. The fact that they are free and open to all is a testimony to the health of Toronto as a city.

I live near Dufferin Grove rink and use it regularly. Throughout the skating season, the rink serves as a magnet for people of all ages and walks of life. It is a fantastic resource for youth - all they need are skates and a hockey stick (both of which can be borrowed from Dufferin Grove) and they can spend hours playing shinny outside. Surely this is good for everyone!

To lose a month of rink time - for very small savings - seems a penny wise, pound foolish, decision. Please reconsider cutting such a vital community service.

Comment from rink friend Jutta Mason, Sept.14 2007:

The fact is, one hopes that the taxes will be passed, since we certainly need them now. But if they're NOT passed, so that cuts need to be made, that means the cuts will be long-term.

So: if you were decision-making city staff, would you rather cut community centres and rinks over the long term ($1.5 million), or would you rather cut one day a month of management salaries over the long term ($1.5 million)?

The top city staff made their choice and Mayor Miller supported it. That means the cuts are absorbed by:

1. citizens who use rinks and community centres

2. part-time parks and rec workers who make $22,000 a year (maybe) but will now lose all those days -- rather than full-time management who make between $67,000 to $140,000 a year (plus 24% benefits).

In whose interest is the city run?

To be fair, most of the management people I've talked to have told me they'd be willing to take a day a month of cuts. But they weren't a party to the Mayor's plan.

From Belinda Cole, September 21, 2007

Dear City Councillors,

My 4 kids and I enjoy the outdoor ice rinks from the time they open until they close – for pleasure skating and shinny hockey. This is one of our most important winter activities. I find it most disappointing that the City can decide to hire more and more people for different "youth work" and "youth" related initiatives, and yet fail to support the basic services that offer young people a place to enjoy themselves amidst the rest of the community. I find it appalling that the budget cuts are designed so that the people who enjoy parks and community centres, and the lowest paid recreation staff who work to provide us with such important services are held for ransom in the budget deliberations. There are many ways to save money that I support, as set out in the September newsletter for Dufferin Park.

We feel it is your job as our representatives to make sure our basic services are kept up and properly maintained. These facilities belong to us - the people of Toronto. It is citizens who have paid to have them built and they should be fully available for us to use. We fully support the funding plan and schedule for the opening and closing of rinks set out at the following site:

Will you please get back to us to let us know your position on the rinks and to let us know of any initiatives you are taking to protect our rinks. I would also like to hear your response to the alternative budget cuts proposed in the Dufferin newsletter.

Thank you.

From teacher Sally Bliss, Sept.17 2007

I’m currently on maternity leave from Greenwood Secondary School, a specialized TDSB orientation program for adolescent newcomers-many of whom are refugees- who require intensive language, literacy and numeracy support. For the past 6 years, I’ve taught the grades 9 and 10 Healthy Active Living course to teenagers who for the most part have never participated in structured physical activity in their lives. Some are attending school for the first time, as former child soldiers, household breadwinners, girls who were denied education…

Two years ago, I came up with the idea of starting a skating program for my students. It’s such a struggle to find activities that our students can continue outside of school, because of financial constraints, access, know-how and family obligations. Winter is a particularly challenging time for recent immigrants from milder climates. “Active on Ice” started with a call for used skate donations and a few field trips to Dufferin Grove Park’s rink.

We then got organized to skate twice a week during public hours at the Monarch Park rink, a short walk from our school. Youth from the spectrum of our student body participated-from Iraq, Afghanistan, southern China, Bangladesh, etc. One boy from Eritrea commented “Miss—I used to hate winter here, but now I love it. I’m going to skate like a Canadian.” No one was excluded because of skill, or cost. Enthusiasm was so great that students signed out skates, helmets and hockey sticks for weekend and evening use. Another student who could barely stand during the first year got a job as a rink guard the following season. With a ‘healthy schools’ grant from the Ministry of Health promotion and helmet donation from the organization ‘Think First’, Greenwood’s program is now well-resourced with properly maintained equipment.

Just when a good thing gets going, it’s so frustrating to hear that it may be compromised because of City budget problems. Delaying rink opening until January means that our first semester students are unlikely to get on skates. When they return from Christmas vacation in the New Year, the emphasis is on exams, not on trying a new activity. If we get them on ice before the break, it means they are more likely to do it during the holidays, which can be a lonely, difficult period for many of them. If they are introduced to skating and to a free community resource by their teacher, it’s more likely that they’ll take advantage of Parks and Rec. programs in their immediate neighbourhoods. (Greenwood students come from all over the city.) My most keen skater last year had no idea that a rink was literally 100 meters from her door in Regent Park.

I’m an avid shinny player. I brag about Toronto’s rinks to my friends in Ottawa who think nothing compares to the Canal. The rinks make winter magical here. My daughter, Jasmin is two months old today. She’ll grow up skating no matter what because I’ll pay for her to join a league if necessary. But, I’ll accept higher taxes if it means she’ll play with Greenwood students. I want her to learn where people in Toronto come from and let the joys of skating under crisp blue skies be their bond. Please don’t cut the rinks.

From Luin Goldring, Sept.24, 2007:

Toronto's outdoor rinks are a basic resource for the city's population. They provide a place for young and old to gather, converse, and to stay active. Keep our outdoor rinks alive and do not shorten the rink season!

I live near Bloor and Keele, and we use Rennie rink as part of the Swansea Girls Hockey League (my 9-year old daughter plays on that league), as well as the High Park rink (where my 7-year old daughter loves to skate). I do **NOT** support the late opening of the rinks, nor the community centre closings on Monday. Together with many neighbours and friends, I plan to support candidates who respond to community agendas. I'm willing to pay taxes to keep these and other social and community services available in an accessible manner. Why not listen to the proposals generated by the Dufferin Grove folks, who have been looking at the issue carefully and thoughtfully???

My family lives in a fairly well-off area of the city. We have George Bell arena as a back up option for hockey. But indoor arenas are not the same as outdoor arenas! Moreover, I hate to think of what shutting down outdoor rinks and other community services will do in less affluent areas of the city. For a city government that claims to be interested in youth, social inclusion, and so forth, shutting down rinks and community centers has got to be one of the poorest ways of dealing with differences among Council members. Find another way to negotiate, one that does not include using rinks and community services as pawns in negotiations.

From Georgie Donais. September 25 2007, to city councillors

Toronto's outdoor rinks are a basic resource for the city's population. They provide a place for young and old to gather, converse, and to stay active. Keep our outdoor rinks alive and do not shorten the rink season!

As a family that attends outdoor rinks almost every day over the winter season, we can tell you that shortening the rink season will impact us greatly. We invite you to look at some of the well-researched suggestions for fiscal efficiency here: Informed citizen opinion and recommendation should be welcomed when making decisions that greatly impact the citizenry. I trust that you will take the time to read over these recommendations and give them serious consideration as you contemplate cutting services in an attempt to cut costs.

From Belinda Cole to Councillor Norm Kelly, Sept.28 2007

I have worked in the federal bureaucracy and I am well aware - from the inside of the organization - of the amount of waste and unnecessary spending which occurs. Merely raising taxes will not address this burgeoning problem. If it is not addressed, the very natural push by the bureaucracy will be to continue to grow and, when faced with a money squeeze, try to close down our programs and services. Despite the rallying cry of "mission statements", any bureaucracy's raison d'etre is to perpetuate itself, not to serve the people for whom it exists.

Would you please review the CELOS suggestions and let me know if you are willing to consider and discuss any of the proposed cuts.

From Pat MacKay, October 4, 2007, cc of letter to the editor, Globe and Mail:

Re: Margaret Wente's column "Fat Chance"-

It's pretty obvious by just looking around that we Canadians are getting fatter just like our neighbours to the south- no need for fancy research to prove it. Clearly diet is a major cause but equally important, is exercise.

Soooo how are we proposing to save money on the city budget? Why of course, don't open the skating rinks until the children are back in school in January! That way they can stay indoors and play computer games and put on a few more pounds during the December holidays. And their parents will be sitting around instead of working off the turkey and gravy.

Brilliant planning!

From Pat MacKay, October 12 2007, letter to the Toronto Star:

I spoke to someone in Health Promotion at Toronto Public Health urging them to speak up. She agreed with my point of view and has forwarded my comments to the M.O.H.

In addition to the valid points made by David Cayley in his fine article about skating and hockey as our winter traditions, there is another compelling reason to have our outdoor rinks open for the longest season possible. Childhood obesity is reaching alarming proportions - as well as adult obesity. Exercise is essential for optimal health for all ages and is a wonderful source of exhilarating pleasure. So why would the mayor and Coucil choose the outdoor rinks as their priority as a cost-saving measure?

I commend Mastercard for coming to the rescue with funding for one month but it should never have been necessary.

From shinny hockey player Janet Morassutti, October 18 2007, after the October 17 rink meeting with Outdoor Rink supervisor Kevin Bowser:

How can it take over 6 months to figure out the cost of the rinks? How can next year's budget be set if we don't know what this or previous years' costs are? How on earth did they arrive at a 2008 budget? How do they monitor if their spending is meeting,below or exceeding predictions/expectations if there are no predictions/expectations?

What would the point of any cost-saving measures be,if no one has the tools to compare pre- and post-implementation numbers??How can MasterCard's money be assumed to be adequate for a month's expenses if no one knows what theexpenses are?

i feel very frustrated by the whole thing. What if the whole city is run like this?

Facebook posting by rink supporters

Facebook Toronto rink supporter group (independent). Note: you have to log into facebook to access this site


From David Cayley, Thursday Night Shinny player at Dufferin Rink,

Dear Mayor Miller, March 2, 2008

I have been for a number of years a frequent user of Dufferin Grove Rink, both as a skater and a hockey player. I don't know if it has come to your attention yet, but I have recently been made aware of a plan to put Zamboni drivers in charge of the city's outdoor rinks. As far as I can see this is a very bad and potentially destructive idea. It is also rather surprising in view of the city's apparent need to save money. It will result in people doing less work for more pay and will probably interfere with the operation of the rinks as well. Flooding a rink three times a day is not a full-time job. When the operators exercised authority at our rink a few years back there was nothing but trouble and conflict between them and the regular staff. This appears to me to be aimed at mollifying Parks workers rather than improving the operation of the rinks. It will also increase costs which will probably result in further cutbacks down the line as well. I urge you to look into this matter and to then use your influence to block this unwise and unhelpful initiative.

From Jacqueline Peeters, March 10 2008

Dear Mayor Miller,

PLEASE PUT ON HOLD THE GRASS-CUTTER ZAMBONI OPERATOR LEAD HAND PLAN until it can be examined more carefully (and publicly). This plan needs Council's oversight.

Please don't put costly measures in place that will be difficult to undue and may have a huge impact on the availability of our rinks to kids, families and others in our communities. Please just "PAUSE" and give time for the needed review and input.

P.S. Please go check out how "mushy" the rinks are this week despite the -14 Celsius this morning...the power of the sun's rays needs to be remembered when determining whether to open in November (or at least December 1) rather than staying on into March. The draw of March Break may make for good publicity, but the reality is that the outdoor rinks really don't work at this time of the year.

From Brenda Librecz, general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation, to Jacqueline Peeters, March 12 2008

I am writing in response to your email regarding staffing of outdoor artificial ice rinks operated by Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation.

Please be assured that the 49 outdoor artificial ice rinks operated by our division are viewed by us as a valuable and integral part of the services and recreation opportunities that we provide to residents. We believe the planned operating and staffing improvements will help to ensure both efficient and sustainable rink operations.

The plan is budget neutral with a net zero financial impact on the Division.

The changes will result in significant benefits to the City and improvements to service delivery for residents. In addition, this will lead to more consistent practices for rink operations across the city, increased productivity and allows for greater flexibility to adapt our operating schedule according to weather conditions.

The Division is currently in the final stages of development and implementation of its new frontline structure which is subject to on-going and complex discussions with both its Unions; therefore, we are unable to provide further specific details at this time.

Please be aware that you may have received information regarding these matters from external sources that may not be accurate or complete.

I do wish to thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention and I will ensure that they are considered as part of our ongoing review.

From Jacqueline Peeters to Brenda Librecz, March 13, 2008

Unfortunately, your email doesn't address the concern of proceeding on the issues without giving the opportunity for public and community input. It is the degree of secrecy that is concerning and your "on message" response is no help. I'm aware that the City's position is that the changes will be "budget neutral".

I'm concerned with the comment about "having more consistent practices for rink operations across the city". Does this mean descending to the lowest common denominator or raising the underperforming rinks up to the marvelous standard of the vibrant community rinks that are currently operating with such success? One of my sons has been surveying the rinks around the city and what he has found is appalling. City workers sitting inside in an office together watching tv with no schedules available for rink users--and in some cases almost no hours available for shinny play unless people want to buy a permit. Hopefully your plan will be to overhaul this bleak situation, but I also know that this is difficult with employees who've gotten used to a minimalist approach.

The more resistance there is to providing the information that is being requested, the more nervous the public becomes. If we all share a goal of having a vibrant city resource, why isn't communication more open and the planning transparent? I understand you have to deal with union employees and collective bargaining issues and information must be considered "without prejudice" to what may actually be possible, but the secrecy and failure to include valuable community resources of information in the discussion process only creates the potential for further problems.

All that is being sought by the community is a commitment to reserve any final decisions until there can be a review and input from those concerned. Seems pretty reasonable to me...

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Content last modified on March 13, 2008, at 04:56 PM EST