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[Jan-Feb 2003] The Shrinking of The Rink Season:
In 2001, city council voted to cut the artificial ice rink season in Toronto down to 10 weeks a year (down from the traditional 15 week-season). Rinks are cheap to run but there was some money saved, which was put toward hiring three new parking ticket officers (there is rich revenue from parking tickets in Toronto). Partly because of strong protests by Dufferin Rink users, the Parks Department modified the rink season decision to allow the city's double-pad rinks to be open 12 weeks. Now city council is considering next year's budget, and may decide to shrink the rink season again, to 8 weeks a year. (Hard to believe, yes?)
If you want to help the city councillors make a more sensible decision (returning to the traditional 15-week season for heavily-used rinks), you could participate in our rink survey (see below). Or if you haven't got time to help with the survey but you'd still like to be counted as a concerned rink user when we make the submission to city council, you can get on the list by e-mailing Jutta Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org or leaving your name and number at the park (416 392-0913).
[Jan-Feb 2003] New Hot Line for West-end Rinks:
When the weather is snowy or rainy or unseasonably warm, outdoor rinks are sometimes closed for a few hours or days. People who call the city's rink information line (338-RINK) to find out which west-end rinks have re-opened after winter storms or warm spells, are now being directed to call Dufferin Rink (392-0913). West-end rink operations staff will keep Dufferin Rink staff informed as each west-end rink re-opens. Our staff will put that information on the rink's voice mail. Tell your friends who use any of the west-end rinks. It saves people time and trouble if they can call ahead to make sure they're not bundling up the kids and the skates and the hockey sticks only to find out when they get there that the rink hasn't been plowed out yet.
FUN WITH SNOW SHOVELS: during the two big snowfalls this winter so far (Christmas Day and Jan.3), rink staff got out the old green rink shovels that have been rusting quietly in the rink's storage breezeway. With the help of rink users, the staff were able to clear enough ice to make skating possible and even to let a hockey permit go on. Both times all rinks in the west end - except Dufferin Rink - were closed. Rink shovellers got a great work-out and then they had the pleasure of the rink.
For hockey players, we have the green rink shovels available when there's too much snow to move the puck (e.g. a sudden snow flurry) and no zamboni. The shovels can only be used with staff working alongside and all the snow MUST be shovelled right off the rink, not left in piles that would obstruct the zamboni when it comes later. But using those big shovels is fun when it's done right. And a successful rink clearing yields a food reward: one mini-pizza, one cookie, and one juice box, free for every shoveller.
[Nov.2003] Alexandra Rink: Our sister rink needs a door and a window.
The outdoor rink that's most heavily-used after ours, in this neighbourhood, is Alexandra Park rink, right near the corner of Dundas and Bathurst. They have good shinny hockey there, and lots of people who use our rink like to play there too.
For several years we've been talking with recreation supervisor David Hains about collaborating with the rink staff at Alexandra Park, to make that rink more family-friendly. We decided to make the two rinks sister rinks this winter, sharing some staff and some ideas. But then we ran into a problem with their rink house. In order to become family-friendly, the Alexandra rink building needs a simple access door and an eye-level window put into the blank brick wall that faces onto the rink. That way the skaters can change their skates and get warm in the pleasant room right beside the rink, instead of having to use a dingy, dangerous, more remote room with no visibility. And non-skating parents can keep an eye on their kids from indoors, instead of standing shivering beside the rink. But the money to make this small alteration (which would take a day and a half to do) is not to be found.
Who can make sense of how public money is spent in parks? It's not that there's no money to do things. Last summer Christie Pits got a $50,000 "entrance feature," (actually leading only to an unused patch of grass in a corner of the park). Also last year, Scadding Court Community Centre, right beside Alexandra rink, put in a new front reception desk for $40,000. This year, the parks budget calls for a $100,000 rebuild of the very adequate playground near Alexandra rink, within the next two months. Safety issues - a big concern in asking for this new door and window - have some money attached to them, but only on a broader scale. This year the city found $70,000 to commission a consulting company to produce a safety manual for Toronto's parks and recreation facilities. Someone forgot (no kidding!) that a recent safety manual already exists, commissioned by the city less than 10 years ago, and so thorough that it has wide international circulation. (Our park is in there too.)There must be stacks of that excellent booklet gathering dust in a storage room somewhere at city hall.
Right now, Alexandra Rink needs a door and a window, to open up a winter of great skating and family enjoyment. Such a small alteration would cost a fraction of the money allocated for the architectural entryway, the gold-plated desk, the formulaic playground, the duplicate book about safety. The fact is, a million-dollar rebuild of Alexandra rink is also planned, for sometime down the road. But that may be postponed for quite a while, by budget problems. Meantime, the money for small things like this door and this window - which would allow our sister rink to welcome skaters and their families NOW, this winter, in the way that has made such a difference at Dufferin Rink - that money is not there. How can it be found?
This troubling story is a good example of what needs to be fixed in the stewardship of our tax-supported public spaces, our collective treasure. The story provides us with an interesting test question for both the mayoral candidates and the local candidates in this area (ours and Alexandra rink's). So we've sent this story to Barbara Hall, Tom Jacobek, David Miller, John Nunziata, and John Tory. We've also sent it to Ana Bailao and Adam Giambrone in our ward, and Olivia Chow and Joe Pantalone. We've asked them: if you get elected on Nov.10, how will you look out for small, humble initiatives like this door and this window -- even if it means cutting back on the bigger, more glamorous projects, while government budgets are restricted?
[Nov.2003] Dufferin Rink Opens: Saturday Nov. 29 AT 9 A.M.
Same story as last year and every year: pleasure skating all the time (the gate is never closed), shinny hockey on the hockey side Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., some shinny permits 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., fire in the wood stove inside, chess and checkers, some toys for the little kids, organic coffee and hot chocolate and mini-pizzas and slices of fresh park bread, snow hills for climbing and sliding outside, and free skating under the sky in the bracing Canadian winter. Fun!
BEGINNERS' SHINNY FOR ADULTS with Lawrence Barichello. Starts SUNDAY NOV.30, 7-8.30 P.M. This was a hit last year and it filled up really fast. If you want to get started playing shinny hockey this year, get your place early. Lawrence is taking calls for registration now. The class costs about $70 for 12 weeks, and you need skates and preferably a helmet and a stick if you have one. Otherwise Lawrence has extra. Men and women are both welcome. Call Lawrence at 416/530-4810, e-mail email@example.com.
SKATING LESSONS: last year we had none but this year we've found a terrific teacher. If you want to enroll your child, call the rink (416 392-0913) and leave your number and the age of the child. We'll call you back within a week and let you know the time (Sunday mornings for sure) and the cost.
We have no adult skating lessons. However, for some years we have had a "skating practice" time on Sunday mornings between 10-12.30. That means that, to protect learners, we don't allow fast skaters or wild kids on the ice, and we have two rink staff on the ice as resource people -- i.e. if an adult (or child) wants to be out on the ice learning to skate (with a chair or without), the resource person will help them. It actually works very well, and it's free. It's also possible to arrange for a private lesson (for $20 an hour) with one of those resource rink staff after their shift, i.e. after 12.30. Usually people don't need such a thing more than a few times -- skating, like walking, is mainly learned through practice. We try to make the rink a friendly place to practice.
[December 2003] Rink News:
Our rink was one of the first two neighbourhood rinks in the city to open this year. So it was even fuller than usual in the first week. Often there were over 50 shinny hockey players on the ice, with several different games going on at the same time. Permits for the 9-11 period filled up fast (those for youth are free), and after the building closed, there was usually a crowd of shinny hockey players on the pleasure-skating side as well. After eleven when the lights go out and the hockey side is locked, hockey players would jump the fence, and another whole game would take place in the moonlight. The players would try to play as quietly as they could so as not to bother the apartment building next door. - That's how much youth want to play hockey.
By December 13 all city outdoor rinks will be open, and hopefully that will take the pressure off our rink. It seems that the city park management hasn't quite grasped how popular skating and shinny hockey are. City outdoor ice rinks used to open on Nov.22, and perhaps they should go back to that schedule. Outdoor rinks work just fine when the ice is made artificially, i.e. with the help of compressors. When the sun is as low and feeble as at this time of year, it can be 12 degrees celsius and still the compressors can keep the ice frozen. If you like to use the rinks, let your city councillor know they should open earlier. There's no need for this crowding - we have a treasure of artificial ice rinks in the city, and we should use them. It's a winter country! Plus rinks cost a fraction of swimming pools to operate. And this is the right time to connect with your new councillor - hopefully it's a different season at city hall too.
After snow or bad weather, if you wanted to know which rinks have re-opened, it used to be that you could call the rinks and ask. But over the past six years most of the individual rink listings have been removed from the phone book. Lawrence Barichello, the shinny hockey teacher at our rink, pointed out that some rink phone numbers are listed on the NOW web site. But sadly, those are not numbers for the actual rinks, just for the community centres that administer them. We've found that usually if you call such a centre, they don't know much about the rinks at all. As a temporary solution, Dufferin Rink staff are running a voluntary rink hot line this year, as in other years. This is to augment the city's rink "lukewarm line," which only records the rink schedules at the beginning of each season. You can call 392-0913 and we'll try to get the information for you. Hopefully all the rink numbers can be made public on the city's web site next month (or failing that, on our park's web site), if the park management gives us permission.
Rink romances: Early one evening after the rink opened this winter, a man named Mike came into the rink and was showing his wife all around. They said they live in Thornhill, and they had intended to go to Niagara Falls. But the traffic was so bad that they bailed out of their trip and decided to look around Mike's old neighbourhood instead. Mike lived in this area from 1958 to 1971, and he said he used to come to Dufferin Rink all the time. He remembered the usual fights and ruckus, but also the Saturday evening skating. There was pleasure skating on both sides, there was organ music on the loudspeakers, and the boys would ask the girls to skate in the same way you'd ask girls to dance. Mike said, when a boy would go up to a girl and ask her to skate, all his friends would watch to see if he was accepted or rejected. Everybody went skating on Saturday night, he said. That was where romances started.