Some Ottawa outdoor rinks on 'thin ice' with no volunteers

Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa

At least a dozen outdoor rinks in Ottawa may not open this winter unless some volunteers step forward. 

The city has skating rinks scattered throughout the area but no one to operate and maintain 13 of them.

The hours aren't great, the work is hard and cold but the rewards are plenty.

That's not much of a sales pitch for volunteers but it's the reality for a true Canadian winter sport that may fall victim to apathy.

It seems just a few hours ago that Al Lopes and his buddy were out flooding an outdoor rink in west Ottawa.  In fact, it was just a few hours ago.

“We were out until 3 in morning last night giving it a first water,” he says, “It's a commitment.”

That kind of commitment is hard to find, which is why 13 rinks, mostly in Ottawa's east end, specifically Beaconhill and Cumberland, may not open at all this winter.

At Fallingbrook on Deancourt Crescent, the boards are up but the padlock is still on.

“Unfortunately, if volunteers don’t come forward, we have to close the rinks for this season,” says Katy Prusakowski, a city of Ottawa recreation supervisor, “but we're hopeful that residents will notice the rinks aren't open and reach out to the city’s season recreation unit to find out how to help out.”

Now the good news is that there are some 250 rinks that have volunteers to operate them, like the Lakeview Park rink in Crystal Bay where the ice is honestly as good as it gets.

“I play hockey every weekend,” says Milo Tracz, “and I don't want to lie; it's not as good as an indoor rink but it's close, it is.”

The city of Ottawa owns the rinks but relies on the community associations to find volunteers to clear and maintain them.  A dedicated group has done that at Lakeview Park for years and Karolyn Kelly has benefitted from it.

“They just do it, because they love it,” says Kelly, “I think it's amazing.  It is teaching the kids what it's all about and hopefully they grow up with same desire and appreciation.”

“I enjoy coming out here with my friends and just skating,” says Ben Tait, “getting exercise and having fun.”

And that, says Al Lopes, is the reason he is out here at 3 in the morning, making the ice pristine.

“That's why I do it, for the kids,” he says. “I was one of those kids who came to the rink every day and that's where we hung out and that's my way of giving back.”

Lopes suggests getting a group of neighbours together so that it's not all on one person. 

The city of Ottawa says if you're interested, there's still time to contact them to help out. Here’s a list of the rinks that need volunteers:

  • Centrepointe
  • Michele Heights
  • Dr. John Hopps
  • Palmertson
  • Acres
  • Aquaview
  • Chapel Hill
  • Fallingbrook
  • Gardenway
  • Jasmine
  • Kinsella
  • Valin
  • Vista