March 28, 2020

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Winnipeg Free Press

ABOVE THE FOLD

Charleswood neighbours seek return of pleasure rink

The revelation a neighbourhood ice rink won’t open in River West Park this year has dampened residents’ spirits ahead of the holiday season.

The sight of city staff preparing a rink in Caron Park has long been a signal of the start of winter in the Charleswood community. For the last decade, community members have learned to skate, met their neighbours and mingled at holiday gatherings at the park that have attracted upwards of 100 people.

"It’s one of the small things that the city does that really, really helps communities," said Kim Bell, a mother of two whose family lives across from the park.

Christine Gosselin (left), Kim Bell (second from left) and other neighbourhood children and parents are upset the city has pulled their community pleasure rink in River West Park. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

Christine Gosselin (left), Kim Bell (second from left) and other neighbourhood children and parents are upset the city has pulled their community pleasure rink in River West Park. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

Children usually flock to the park to lace up their skates and the vehicles of visiting families line the street, but this season Bell said things have been quiet on Musgrove Street. She contacted 311 on multiple occasions this autumn to find out why the rink was late and only last week received an answer: it won't open this year.

"Socially, there will be a huge impact for everyone — families, children, grandparents," she said. "It just really changes the community spirit."

Bell and her neighbour, Christine Gosselin, have since rallied their neighbours to call for the rink's return.

Gosselin and her seven and nine-year-old children delivered 200 flyers over the weekend, pleading for local residents to contact their councillor to bring back the rink.

"It’s one of the small things that the city does that really, really helps communities." – Kim Bell, community resident

Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) said Monday he had received 20 different messages from residents expressing concern about the end of the Caron Park rink era.

In response, he informed them of the pleasure rink program’s flexible structure. Klein said councillors move around the pleasure rink locations their ward is allotted every year — decisions that take into account resident requests.

This year, the city will maintain pleasure rinks at Smithdale Park and Shoreham Bay, where Klein said families requested there be a rink due to the recent arrival of a number of young families.

"I know some people are upset, I know change is hard, but I’ve also had a lot of [requests] ... I don’t know why people wouldn’t see that as fair. I think it’s fair and reasonable," he said, adding River West Park residents could see their rink return again in the future. Or, he said, they could bring it back themselves through the Adopt-A-Rink program.

 

Winnipeg’s pleasure rinks

Winnipeg Free Press Source: City of Winnipeg

 

Winnipeg’s pleasure rinks

Winnipeg Free Press Source: City of Winnipeg

 

Winnipeg’s pleasure rinks

Winnipeg Free Press Source: City of Winnipeg

Residents can upkeep a local rink as long as they buy insurance for it and create and maintain a safe rink by flooding it and shovelling the surface after snowstorms. (Klein's office has offered to pay 50 per cent of the insurance cost for the Caron Park facility).

The residents did look into the latter option, but have since decided it’s too late in the season to figure out the logistics.

Klein acknowledged Monday not informing the community of the change was "a mistake I wouldn’t make again." He said he plans to post pleasure rink changes to his social media and send out information in his newsletter in the future.

The City of Winnipeg’s website indicates crews are maintaining 37 "pleasure rinks" across Winnipeg this season. There are 15 in the east end, 12 in the north region and 10 in south Winnipeg.

That tally doesn’t include rinks on ponds — an additional three — or community centres, where public skating hours vary at 12 different arenas in the city.

The city has downsized its rink roster in recent years due to budget constraints. And it could shrink further, if city council moves forward with cuts to community services that were proposed in the multi-year budget planning process in autumn.

"They should not get rid of recreation centres and community facilities like this, they should be adding more for families to enjoy," said Gosselin. "It encourages kids to play outside, keeps them away from social media and getting into trouble."

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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