May 15, 2006

So much for that...

We are probably losing our rink. The one in the park across the street from us. The outdoor rink that was a huge reason we moved here.

Some background. Our little town was amalgamated into the larger city the year we moved here. We closed on the house in November, and according to the official tax papers, we moved in January. Even though we really moved in December. But anyway...shhhhh. We don't know what its like to be a part of the "old" town. Which was fine...we didn't know what we were missing. We did notice that some services went down the crapper even since we've been here. We're on a quiet crescent street, and in the winter, it doesn't get plowed until a day after snow stops. Unless we get more than a foot...then they'll plow. Partly because there is ONE large plow for our entire town. One. And main streets have to be plowed first. No biggie...we have winter tires. But more than once we've listened to to someone with "all-seasons" spinning their tires trying to get up the street.

With city boundary amalgamation comes joining of the budgets. Our town had no debt starting out with the large city. Now there is a debt (since we inherited it from the other towns that now make up the city) and we personally have seen our property taxes increase over $600 in the five years we've lived here. I don't know...maybe that isn't much, but it seems high to me. And its not like we're getting more out of it. We still don't have a sidewalk on our street. Hell, there aren't sidewalks on any of the small streets in our neighbourhood. We border a park...shouldn't we at least have a sidewalk? And its not like we're a new neighbourhood...our house was built in the 60's, as were most of the other homes here. Apparently our sector was promised more sidewalks to sell amalgamation to citizens.

Recycling services have gone downhill. We have pick-up every second week instead of weekly. And we have to sort now instead of putting everything in one bin. Most people don't have the room to store and/or can't be bothered to sort their recyclables, so it goes in the garbage. Good show... I think the recycling rules are changing next year tho, so hopefully they'll go back to what it was. It never really bothered me. Sure, its annoying to have the recycle bin overflowing after a week, but I just sort the non-paper into blue bags and we're good 'til pick-up day.

Now, council has made a decision to close three outdoor rinks with boards and twelve without boards. We have one of each across the street....the one with boards usually has a hockey game going and the smaller one is for younger kids to learn how to skate...its wonderful. I was so looking forward to being able to send the kids across the street to skate. They would be getting valuable exercise FOR FREE within shouting perfect. Two of the boarded rink sites also provide access to heated buildings where people can put their skates on. Our rink is one of those.

The reason they are being closed is because our sector has more outdoor rinks (26 total) than the others and it isn't fair. In my opinion, its not our fault that we had more rinks than the other sectors...they chose to put their money elsewhere when we were all separate. So now, the city is planning on doubling the rink budget and putting what they call twin rinks in each sector. It would be like a regular rink, except outdoors. From what I understand, there would be one ice surface with and one without boards, same as we have across the street. Except larger. Users would drive to it, fight to get a spot to change, and jostle each other on the ice with the hundreds of others who have lost their community rinks. Sounds fun, no? There would be no way people could play hockey on them. There will be too many folks just looking for a skating surface with their families. Which is fine, but those kids who want to play a game of pick-up are out off luck.

The three councillors for our sector are pissed. They actually walked out of the council meeting after the vote. I'm happy to say that they are fighting to keep the rinks open. I've been in touch with our councillor to show that we support him in his fight. I figure the more people contact them, the better. Several local schools have started their own campaign...the outdoor rinks were part of gym class for a lot of schools as there was always a rink within walking distance of the schools.

There have been several rumours floating around. One is that the up-keep of the rinks will be given back to volunteers. That's the way it was 30 years ago when they first opened...but the town took over the clearing and flooding, which was great. Its just since amalgamation the number if rinks has been doomed. I'm not sure how realistic using volunteers is. I mean, its great to put your name on the list saying you'll flood and clear, but how willing will people be at midnite when its -20 with a -35 windchill? And yes, flooding has to be done at nite to let the ice set and allow for maximum public usage. They do clear snow during the day tho...skaters just move aside and let the plows/snowblowers do their thing.

What I think is happening is that the councillors will propose that we don't get the large twin rink, but the money budgeted for the upkeep of it will go towards keeping at least some of the current ice surfaces open. That idea pleases a lot of me, its much more convenient for most citizens to have ice nearby instead of having to drive, park and fight crowds at the larger rink. From what I understand, the proposed amendment is going to be added to the final vote on the matter at the June council meeting.

And another big thing the councillors are using is the fact that physical activity and childhood obesity is a huge issue right now. As is the increase in vandalism and "gang" activities with local youth. Shouldn't we be encouraging kids to get out and be active by having facilities such as small community rinks instead of taking them away? I would be incredibly disappointed if the rinks disappeared.
Cael is almost at the age where he can learn to skate and we won't have easy access to ice. I was looking forward to buying the little double blade cheese-cutter skates, a big ole' helmet and letting him lose on the ice with a chair.

I'm so hoping that the amendment goes through so we have a reason to stay. Its a shame...I honestly thought we'd live in this house until we retired. Its a nice, quiet neighbourhood and the rink was a real selling point. I loved looking outside on weekends during the winter to see a dozen teenagers playing hockey instead of sitting inside staring at the tv, and another few younger kids on the smaller ice always made me smile. But with the cost of housing on this side of the river going up, property taxes rising with no visible upgrades going on, and no easily accessible recreational facilities, we'd may as well move back to family-friendly neighbourhood in Ottawa where we can get better English service.

Here's our rink last winter after a storm. Local kids were clearing so they could skate. I SO wasn't expecting this to be the last year we'd have it or I'd have taken more photos.


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