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Communities and HRM Pilot Neighborhood Outdoor Rinks
(Monday, February 25/2002)--- The power of people working together-- and with the Halifax Regional Municipality-- is proving to be a success story in two Halifax neighborhoods.
Parks and Open Space staff have been working with two local volunteer committees in North and West End Halifax to organize an outdoor rink pilot program. It's designed to determine the feasibility of creating small, community-built neighborhood rinks within HRM parks in the future.
One ice surface has opened at Highland Park School, on Agricola Street, and a second surface is located at Larry O'Connell Park, on Newton Avenue. Both Halifax rinks were recently featured in a story about Canada's Olympic Hockey Teams on CBC's "The National".
The rink program emphasizes family participation, with rules in place regarding hours of operation, safety and the level of hockey play permitted. Volunteers from the local community built and maintain the rinks on municipally-owned parkland.
Peter Bigelow, Manager of Parks and Open Spaces, said the program is proving to be very successful and it is hoped that it can be expanded next winter.
Mr. Bigelow said many rural communities in HRM have a strong tradition of community-built outdoor rinks, but Parks and Open Spaces has intentionally kept the pilot small in scope this year. This will allow staff and the host communities to work out any flaws and issues associated with the project. Challenges range from site selection, methods of construction and maintenance, hours of operation/ proper supervision and, of course, the changeable weather.
He said "The volunteers have been working hard and the project seems to be bringing the neighborhoods together. It gets the kids outdoors, rather than playing video games. Parents and adults have been very good about supervising and keeping the ice clear."
Brian MacDonald, one of the community organizers, said "The other success has been the reaction by local businesses, who have responded by supplying building materials and providing other means of support."
HRM's pilot coincides with a national "Go For Green" pilot program, which supports development of outdoor rinks, now underway in Ontario. Entitled "Ice Dreams," it encourages and supports the development and use of new and existing outdoor rinks in Canada. It provides opportunities for girls and boys of all ages to become active in outdoor activities during winter by playing hockey or other games on ice surfaces, such as frozen ponds and waterways, or backyard, neighborhood and community rinks.
Steve Grundy, Executive Director of the "Go for Green" program, believes that "Ice Dreams" represents a committed effort to preserve the birthplace of hockey and other traditional winter activities through the outdoor skating rink.
He said "Although the romantic notion of outdoor rinks is preserved in our folklore and in nostalgic media campaigns, the fact is that access to outdoor skating facilities is on the decline, reducing opportunities for unstructured play, healthy outdoor physical activity, and community-based sport among our children. Today, a whole generation is missing out on one of the best parts of growing up in Canada."
The Highland Park School rink will have a special community skate, complete with refreshments and a visit from the Halifax Mooseheads, Sunday, March 3rd , from noon to 3 p.m., weather permitting.
Highland Park School Rink
Larry O'Connell Park Rink
Manager, Parks and Open Spaces