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A library for skates? Toronto offering free skating equipment around the city for second winter

The program offers 85 skates of all different sizes, as well as helmets and
The program offers 85 skates of all different sizes, as well as helmets and

No skates? No problem.

The City of Toronto's Skate Lending Library is back for its second winter, offering free skates and other equipment at about 40 locations this winter, one outdoor rink at a time. It's carting that equipment around the city in a truck, and it marked its first stop at Riverdale Park East this past Friday.

"This is a wonderful initiative that makes skating available for everybody," said Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie, who chairs the city's infrastructure and environment committee.

"And that's both newcomers that have maybe never stepped on the ice, as well as residents who really haven't had that option available for them either because of financial reasons."

The lending library has 85 hockey skates of all sizes, as well as helmets and skating aids, which are plastic devices skaters can lean on and push to stay upright. No reservations are required, and a full schedule of the program times, dates and locations is available online.

Skaters use equipment from the Skate Lending Library at the program's kickoff at Riverdale Park East on Friday.
Skaters use equipment from the Skate Lending Library at the program's kickoff at Riverdale Park East on Friday.

Skaters use equipment from the Skate Lending Library at the program's kickoff at Riverdale Park East on Friday. (Hugo Levesque/CBC)

Sponsor says feedback has been 'heartwarming'

The lending library is a partnership between the city and Desjardins Group, which is providing the equipment and truck. The company also sponsored last year's inaugural program.

"Some of the feedback that we got as well was really heartwarming," said Marilyn Horrick, the senior vice president for Desjardin's Ontario market.

Horrick says she met parents last year who were able to take their kids skating for the first time. She also recalls meeting new Canadians, like a pair of sisters who followed the lending library around to improve their skills and experience the culture of their new home for free.

"It's a real privilege for us," Horrick said.

The program will run from now until March 17.

The Skate Lending Library will be available at different outdoor rinks around the city from now until March
The Skate Lending Library will be available at different outdoor rinks around the city from now until March

The Skate Lending Library will be available at different outdoor rinks around the city from now until March (Hugo Levesque/CBC)

Winter activities opening up around city, other equipment available

The city has over 50 outdoor rinks. They began opening late last month, and all are expected to be up and running this weekend, the city said in a November release.

The public can borrow free skates from the truck's latest stop at the Otter Creek Rink in North York Sunday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The library's next stop is the West Mall Rink in Etobicoke on Friday.

The city also lends out skates, though sometimes for a fee, at three permanent locations: Nathan Phillips Square, Dufferin Grove Park and Wallace Emerson Park.

Separate from the lending library, but new this year, people with disabilities will be able to book sledges for free directly through the city. Sledges can be booked 10 days in advance by contacting the Adapted and Inclusive Recreation Services Hotline at 416-395-6128, and will be delivered to straight to the rink of choice.

The city is also permitting wheelchairs on outdoor rinks during leisure ice times.

The Lending Library is part of the city's Welcome TO Winter Program, which kicked off Nov. 25. Here's a list of other Welcome TO Winter activities and amenities offered through the winter, according to the city:

  • More than 1,500 parks, with 270 km of paths and roads cleared of snow.

  • Twenty-eight toboggan hills in neighbourhoods across Toronto.

  • Seven snow loops for walking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing at four of the City's golf courses.

  • Skiing and snowboarding at Earl Bales Ski and Snowboard Centre, 4169 Bathurst St., from January to March (weather and snowfall permitting).

  • Designated outdoor fire pits and ovens that can be booked in advance.

  • Outdoor sports courts including 50 tennis courts with nets in place for winter tennis (however, snow is not cleared from courts).

  • Seven disc golf locations.

  • Centennial Park and Allan Gardens Conservatories.