Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Happy trails coming to an end

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THE sad fate that awaits Frosty every year also awaits the Assiniboine and the Red.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

And while their melting means a glorious spring is that much closer, shed a tear for the imminent demise of the River Trail.

The Forks will make a decision today whether to close the Assiniboine River skating trail permanently for this year, chief operating officer Paul Jordan said Sunday, and a decision on the Red likely won't be too far behind.

"Right now, the Assiniboine portion is closed. We'll make a full assessment (today) to see if it is permanent," Jordan said.

Crews moved warming huts from the Assiniboine to the Red Sunday, including the hut at Hugo Avenue, which is three kilometres from The Forks.

"Typically at this time of year, we're moving things off, because we don't want things to get caught" by the breakup, Jordan said. While the thick ice itself will be safe for walking for another month, there's water in too many places, he said. "Some places, it's three to four inches deep -- you'd get a booter" by trying to skate through standing water, not to mention having lousy skating. "There's no point skating," said Jordan.

Environment Canada is calling for sun through Saturday, and highs ranging from -4 C to -1 C through Wednesday.

That's not causing the water to form on the surface of the trail, Jordan said.

"It's not the temperature or the sun, it's the planned opening of the Shellmouth Dam three weeks ago. It takes that long to get here," but this year there was more water that came down the Assiniboine than expected, Jordan said.

However, weather conditions also are messing up the condition of the skating trails.

"The temperature can make for soft surface conditions. The warmer it gets, the more people come out," he said. The surface freezes overnight with that soft surface and skate cuts, making for poorer conditions each subsequent day.

Generally, March 1 is a key date for calling it a season, Jordan said.

"We've had it open into the second week of March, but just barely," he said.

And how many of us truly, genuinely, seriously want it to be cold enough for the skating trail to survive that long?

"We've had a good six to eight weeks on the Assiniboine," Jordan pointed out.

And just like Frosty, global warming willing, the River Trail will be back next year.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 25, 2013 A3

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