Outdoor rinks will be a thing this winter

WEST CARLETON – Rejoice, the time-honoured tradition of Ottawa’s outdoor rinks will continue this winter.

City of Ottawa Recreation, Cultural and Facility Services general manager Dan Chenier shared the details of this year’s plan to operate outdoor rinks in the age of COVID-19 in a memo to council obtained by West Carleton Online.

“The Outdoor Rink Program offers a great option for residents to stay active in the fresh air during the winter months,” Chenier wrote in the memo released today (Nov. 2).

Working closely with City of Ottawa staff, outdoor rinks are maintained by volunteers and community groups who provide this service to neighborhoods across the city.

This winter, the program will include COVID-19 modifications with operating recommendations from Ottawa Public Health (OPH) and guidelines from the province.

“We recognize you may receive inquiries from residents with questions regarding their local outdoor rink,” Chenier said. “We invite you to use the information below to serve as a guide when responding to questions.”

COVID-19 Procedures

Signage will be posted at all outdoor rinks reminding skaters to maintain a two-metre distance from others. Information pertaining to gathering limits will be included based on allowances at the time of the program opening date. The current outdoor gathering limit is 25.

For those outdoor rinks with an indoor space, such as a fieldhouse or trailer, offering a warm place to put on skates during scheduled supervision hours, several new procedures will be in place for the 2020-2021 season:

  • The maximum capacity for the space will be reduced in order to maintain physical distancing requirements.
  • Anyone entering the building will be required to review the health screening questionnaire.
  • Anyone entering the building will be required to wear a face mask, as per the Temporary Mandatory Mask By-Law (exceptions those with a medical or physical condition and those under 5 years of age).
  • High-touch surfaces, such as railings and door handles, will be cleaned frequently during operational hours.
  • The names and phone numbers of skaters entering the building will be collected for contact- tracing purposes.

“In order to create base ice, we need 10 to 15 centimetres of accumulated snow with evening temperatures consistently below -10 degrees Celsius for a duration of five to seven days,” Chenier said. “We will track the forecast as the weather cools and determine the best window for our community rink operators to begin creation of base ice.”

This labor-intensive process includes packing of the snow and applying 12 coats of water within that five to seven-day cold period.

“In recent years, this process has started around Dec. 15 with skateable ice established at most sites early in the new year,” Chenier said.

Volunteers will do their best to remove snow from the ice surface in a timely manner.

“In general, residents can expect minor snowfalls will be cleared from the rink within 12 hours and major snowfalls (10+ cm) will be cleared within 24 hours,” Chenier said.

Some years, Ottawa experiences several periods of rain followed by mild weather, which make it difficult for volunteers to maintain the ice.

During warmer weather, there is little volunteers can do until the colder weather returns. It is crucial the public stay off the rink during mild weather.

Walking on the rink during mild weather will cause damage to the rinks’ surface and make it incredibly challenging for volunteers to get the ice back to a smooth surface.

  • Rink users should always wear a CSA approved hockey helmet.
  • Children under the age of 7 should be accompanied by a responsible person aged 14 and up.
  • Respect signage indicating the rink is closed. It means volunteers have recently flooded or the ice is too soft for skating.
  • Avoid walking on the rink, as this is hazardous and damages the ice surface.
  • Keep all pets off the rinks. Please do not use boarded rinks as dog runs.
  • For the safety of users, hockey is not permitted on puddle rinks
  • Hours of operation and access to warming facilities where available for supervised rinks is determined by the local community operator at each location and available on Ottawa.ca.
  • Take the time to thank the volunteers who dedicate their time to creating a rink in your community and lend a helping hand when possible!
  • Report any site hazards or deficiencies to 311 or the Seasonal Recreation Office. Rink Operator Appreciation Breakfast The rink operator breakfast will be cancelled this year due to gathering limits and predicted continuation of the COVID 19 pandemic through the winter months. Seasonal Recreation staff are in the process of reviewing alternative recognition options for the rink operators.

Residents with questions regarding the general operation of the outdoor rink program are invited to contact the Seasonal Recreation Office: Phone: 613-580-2590 Email: SeasonalRecreation@ottawa.ca.

“We look forward to another successful season,” Chenier said.