October 26, 2020

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Leisurely skate would be great

Forks unveils longest natural ice trail

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/1/2009 (4307 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

FRANK Penner wasn’t about to let dangerous wind chills keep him from getting his daily exercise — and being one of the first people to christen what will soon be (again) the longest skating rink in the world.

The 75-year-old joined his wife of 52 years, Elfrida, and their daughter, lo­cal musician Sister Dorothy, in head­ing out on 4.5 kilometres of nearly glass-like ice on the Assiniboine Riv­er.

"I’m going to enjoy myself, be part of history," Penner said, while lacing up his skates in a small shack at The Forks. "The weather doesn’t matter. If you start from a warm car and go back to a warm car, nothing much can go wrong."

Paul Jordan, chief operating officer at The Forks, said the nearly four­metre- wide trail is polished all the way to Hugo Street. Over the next two weeks, crews will work day and night to extend it to Assiniboine Park, a dis­tance of 9.34 kilometres, topping last year’s record-breaking distance of 8.54 kilometres.

A year ago, Guinness World Records recognized Winnipeg’s river trail as the world’s longest skating rink, beat­ing out the 7.8-kilometre Rideau Canal in Ottawa.

The rink-making process started in December with a team of students, who shovelled the entire distance by hand.

"Next time you’re shovelling out your driveway, think about these people shovelling nine kilometres of trail," Jordan said.

The trail is then flooded with a thin sheet of water and once that’s frozen, a Zamboni polishes it.

Jordan said this year’s version, which is sponsored by Assiniboine Credit Union, is different from last year’s trail because it’s entirely on the Assiniboine River. The Red River couldn’t be used this year because of "frazil" ice, which is ice that freezes and then drops, making it impossible for skating.

"Each year the trail will be a little bit different. Ottawa has its static canal but we have to deal with a real river," he said.

Jordan bristled at comparisons be­tween the two skating trails.

"Ottawa has got a very cool thing going on. We’re not intending to copy that. The Rideau Canal is very mall­like while ours is much more natural. We’re trying to accentuate those fea­tures, especially when you get to Wel­lington Crescent and it’s like you’re skating in the middle of nowhere," he said.

Josee Vaillancourt, executive direc­tor of the Festival du Voyageur, which started the river trail 20 years ago, said it will provide family-friendly programming, such as ice carving and ice painting, on the river trail near The Forks on Friday evenings and weekend afternoons.

"It’s winter and it’s cold but we can have some fun. We’re very excited about the new record," she said.

Jordan said he was happy to see Home Depot lend a hand by building five shacks that will be placed along the trail for people to put on their skates or take a breather.

"Nine kilometres is a long way es­pecially if you have to go back to get your stuff," he said.
 
geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

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