7:30 a.m., Feb. 17)
Crazy weather a major challenge for outdoor rink volunteers
By Mike Beasley
The Orléans Star
nothing more Canadian than grabbing a pair of skates and
heading to your local outdoor rink for a few laps while
you fill you fill your lungs with the cool crisp midwinter
resident Nick OConnell has spent over
108 hours so far this year maintaining three
outdoor rinks for nothing but the sense of
personal satisfaction he gets out of a job
well done. Fred Sherwin/Photo
do ever think about the rink attendants whose job it is
to maintain Ottawas 250 neighbourhood
outdoor rinks. If you assume that they are city employees
who are making $25 bucks an hour or more, than you would
outdoor rink is managed by an individual who is given
a budget of between $4,200 and $4,500 per rink from which
they have to pay for equipment, equipment repairs and
students who help maintain the rinks and act as supervisors
during public skating.
the end of the day there is very little, if any, money
OConnell has maintained three outdoor rinks in Fallingbrook
for the past 12 or 13 years. (Hes not sure exactly
when he took the task on.) One at Fallingbrook Community
Elementary School, one at Maple Ridge Elementary School,
and one in Gardenway Park.
never been an easy job, but this year has been more difficult
than most due to the weather which keeps changing from
one week to the next.
has been the worst year by far. The weather has been all
over the place. We blew up one snowblower and had to replace
it, and last week when we had the snow and then the freezing
rain and then a deep freeze we had to bring a tractor
on to the rink for the first time to break up the ice.
But that wasnt the worst part. It took me five hours
to break up the snowbank in front of the gate to get the
to Mondays snowstorm, OConnell had already
put in 108 hours on the three rinks mostly on the weekends
and late at night, which is the best time to flood the
ice. He plans to clear this latest snowfall off the ice
and keep the rinks open for another two or three weeks.
does it because he knows that for many people, the outdoor
rink is the first place they learn how to skate.
you see a young guy or a girl trying to skate and their
parents showing them what to do it gives you a real sense
of accomplishment, says OConnell, who has
been volunteering for a variety of different causes and
events since he was nine, including the Greater Orleans
Canada Celebration and its predecessor, the Fallingbrook
Community Canada Day Celebration.
Nick still gets a sense of satisfaction from looking after
the outdoors rinks, hes starting to question how
long he will continue to do it, mostly because of the
number of complaints he receives from area residents who
been the worse year for complaints, says OConnell.
I get e-mails almost daily about the conditions
of the rink. I have not had any positive feedback from
anyone so far at this year. It kind of takes away your
motivation to do the rinks because its plus-5 and
people are complaining to the city about the condition
of the ice and its like, What do you expect?
McGee has looked after the outdoor rink at Scala Park
in Avalon since 2005. He agrees with OConnell that
the weather conditions have been the worst in years for
maintaining outdoor rinks.
18 Celsius is perfect, but up and down weather creates
numerous problems, says McGee who has heard his
share of complaints from area residents as well. The only
problem is the people complaining are usually the ones
causing the problems.
use the ice when it is too soft, or its just been
flooded, or they skate on it during a freezing rain storm
and leave skate marks and foot prints in the ice which
are difficult to fill in, says McGee.
is uniquely difficult as the boards sit 3-4 inches above
have to build a ramp of frozen snow along the boards to
keep the water in when we go to flood it the first few
OConnell, McGee enjoys watching the local residents
skate on the finished product, especially the young ones
or those on blades for the first time.
is a mix of young children using the rinks along with
their parents, but the majority of the participants are
teens and young adult males, says McGee, who grew
up playing hockey on an outdoor rink in Toronto.
lifespan of an outdoor rink is clearly dependent on the
weather and with this years weather being as unpredictable
as it has been, its anyones guess how long
McGee, OConnell and the citys other outdoor
rink attendants will be able to keep them open.
March 1 it is anyones guess from year to year,
says McGee. The temperature may be cold but the
sun increasingly burns through the ice as spring moves
closer. The Department of Recreation, Culture and Facility
Services sends out recommendations, but it is generally
the operators call after February 2.
this winters roller coaster in temperatures, only
Mother Nature knows when this seasons run will come
to an end.
story was made possible thanks to their generous support
of our local business partners.)
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