Great Skate #31 - Glen Stewart Park Rink

This weekend, 34 of the City of Toronto's 51 outdoor artificial ice rinks were scheduled to close for the season. For many people, this didn't make any sense: we've been beset by an epically cold winter, so why shut down skating rinks just when Torontonians are getting the hang of dressing for the weather and amusing ourselves outdoors?

The answer, as usual, is money. It costs about $4,500 a week to operate each rink, according to the Globe and Mail. The city budget doesn't cover the cost of operating all 51 ice rinks for another month. It didn't in previous years either. Last year, corporate sponsors stepped up to bankroll some of the rinks scheduled to close, and that happened this year as well. So now 29 rinks will stay open until March 22.

I'm glad more rinks are staying open. But I'm finding it hard to scrape up any outrage over the fact that some rinks are being closed.

Community-Run Rinks in Toronto

Here's why: even with the rink closures, Toronto still has an abundance of outdoor skating rinks. In addition to the city's 29 artificial ice rinks that will remain open until March 22 - plus the privately operated ones at Brickworks and Harbourfront - there are more than 30 natural ice rinks maintained by volunteers in neighbourhood parks. You can find locations for community-run rinks on the city's website.

Community-run rinks depend on low temperatures and the availability of volunteers to shovel the snow and flood the ice. They bring neighbours together, and give many city kids their only experience of skating on natural ice.

The Glen Stewart Park rink in the Beaches is one of these community-run rinks. I visited it today with my youngest niece, Five. She's pretty steady on the ice now, and we had fun playing follow-the-leader and skating around an obstacle course of boots. She also enjoyed playing in the snowbanks.

The rink was much bigger than I expected, with two large squarish skating surfaces separated by a snowbank. There are picnic tables to sit, and lights have been rigged up to illuminate the rink at night. The ice was in excellent condition, and it's in a beautiful setting at the foot of the ravine.

Here's a short video by Toronto Travel Tour about the Glen Stewart Park rink. (The video was made in January 2011. There was considerably more snow at the rink today.)

So, thank you and well done to all the skating rink volunteers throughout the city who are making this long, cold winter more fun for everyone!

When Five isn't wearing a skating helmet, she wears a zebra toque.


Popular Great Skates

Great Skate #7 - Ryerson Community Park

Great Skate #21 - Greenwood Park (renovated)

Great Skate #1 - Barbara Ann Scott Rink

Great Skate #30: Arrowhead Provincial Park

Cold winters, now and then