By Cam Kennedy
BELLEVILLE – There was a time in the history of Belleville where the city was scattered with outdoor rinks for people to enjoy.
However today people in the city looking for a place to skate outdoors for free are limited in their options.
The International Ice Hockey Federation says there are 5,000 outdoor rinks in Canada, and Belleville has one of them.
Mark Fluhrer, Belleville’s director of Recreation, Culture and Community Services, said the only city-maintained rink is the one in the Belleville harbour. Otherwise, some residents build an outdoor rink in their backyard.
The harbour is certainly a scenic location for a place to skate, yet it isn’t a location that caters to citizens who live furthest from the shores of the Bay of Quinte, he explained.
Belleville is not alone. Quinte West and Sterling also have only one outdoor rink. Batawa has four outdoor rinks.
If you compare the number of rinks in Belleville to a city of similar size like Cornwall, Ontario, the numbers are quite different.
Cornwall has nine outdoor rinks located in various city parks with seven of them currently up and running.
Cornwall’s Leisure Arts Coordinator Lorne Tallion said volunteers play the biggest factor in the maintenance of the rinks.
“Without the volunteers, we wouldn’t have so many (rinks),” said Tallion, “but we (the city) do some of our own.”
Tallion also said the city supplies boards for the different park rinks but can see why Belleville would have a tough time with an outdoor rink.
A graduate of Loyalist, Tallion said the difference in climates between the two cities plays a factor.
“Their winters in Belleville are a little bit more tamer compared to here, so that could have something to do with it,” he said.
Local historian and Belleville Councillor Egerton Boyce also mentioned a warmer winter climate wasn’t exactly on their side when it comes ideal rink temperatures.
“Historically, back in the 80’s, we did have a few ice rinks in various parks,” said Boyce, “As the climate was getting warmer, we found that we weren’t able to keep up with the rinks.”
Back in 2004 and 2005, Boyce said the city set up an oval rink by Zwick’s Island, but the water’s undercurrent was creating ice issues.
Boyce also mentioned many people in the city are inquiring about more places to skate in the city. Boyce wants council to find a solution.
Recognizing the fact that not everyone is interested in playing hockey, Boyce has inquired to city workers about rinks for recreational skaters.
“I sent out an email to our recreation department asking them to explore more ideas of rinks where people can skate, not necessarily play hockey,” Boyce said.
Good news for skating enthusiasts.