Pilot project could bring outdoor rinks to St. Catharines

Photo Credit: Zoe Archambault

Photo Credit: Zoe Archambault

This winter, St. Catharines is hoping for cold weather and volunteers to build, maintain and run outdoor skating rinks.

If you are a part of a group or organization who are searching for a winter project, the City of St. Catharines is looking for volunteers to build ice rinks at six community locations through their Community Outdoor Ice Rink Pilot Project. Applications are open for groups to volunteer to build, operate and maintain outdoor ice rinks in the community.

Before this pilot project, Kaylea Cassano, Operations Planner for the City of St. Catharines notes there were no city maintained ice rinks in St. Catharines.

The idea for an outdoor rink began with a group called the Fitzgerald Neighbours who wanted to build a rink in St. Patrick’s Park. According to Cassano, the project, unprecedented in this city, required planning and strategy to come to fruition.

Other municipalities use volunteers to successfully run their outdoor rinks. Before the acceptance of this project, the city had to go through an in-depth process of comparing municipalities with similar landscapes and populations. Some of these comparator municipalities with volunteer-run outdoor rinks include Barrie, Cambridge, Kitchener and Guelph.

These other municipalities have a program similar to St. Catharines’ project where the city provides land and the volunteers operate and run the rink. The city’s decision to use volunteers to run the rinks is based on these comparators and because the municipality does not have the budget or the staff to take on the project on their own.

“We really need to leverage the community and get them involved because otherwise, we can’t do it. If there are no volunteers for that ward or park or if no one applies then there is no outdoor ice rink,” said Cassano.

The volunteers will need to manage the rink from December 1, 2019 to March 20, 2020.  Volunteers can apply for one of the six locations chosen by the city such as the flat surfaces in the park, lighting, parking and emergency vehicle access.  These include Community Park in Merritton, Burgoyne Woods (St. Andrew’s), Berkley Park (St. George’s), St. Patrick’s Park (St. Patrick’s), Grantham Lions Club (Grantham) and Port Dalhousie Lions Club (Port Dalhousie).  The city will provide the park space, signage and a training session as well as a grant up to $500 to assist with watering costs or for scrapers, tarps, boards, water and benches. The group can choose what to use this grant for but the volunteers are required to acquire and store all equipment and materials as well as build, operate and maintain the rink.

“The entire group needs to be upfront, ready to go, interested and committed,” said Cassano. “That being said, there is no need for past experience as there will be training and a handbook provided.”

At the time of this interview, there were no applications for Burgoyne Woods but there is interest in Grantham and, as previously mentioned, the Fitzgerald Neighbours want their rink in St. Patrick’s Park.

Cassano voiced hopes that the outdoor rinks will provide opportunity for the community to come together.

“We hope people get involved that they want to skate, and they want ice time. They can come out and enjoy the winter and the environment,” said Cassano.

Until then, Cassano is keeping her fingers crossed for a cold winter.

The applications are due Friday, September 13, 2019 at 4:00 p.m. Successful applicants will be notified on October 7, 2019. For more information on rink sizes, insurance and the details of the application go to www.stcatharines.ca/OutdoorRinks or contact kcassano@stcatharines.ca.

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