Outdoor rinks a go this winter, city says

·2 min read

Outdoor rinks may be Ottawa's salvation during COVID-19 as many indoor recreation options remain hobbled by restrictions meant to slow the pandemic's spread.

The city of Ottawa released modified guidelines Tuesday for how its 250 outdoor rinks would operate this winter, based on recommendations from Ottawa Public Health (OPH) and the province.

Even with the COVID-19 modifications, the rinks will offer a chance to get fresh air and exercise close to home.

What's different this year

Signs will be posted reminding skaters to stay two metres from each other. The number of skaters on the ice will be limited. Right now, the outdoor gathering limit is 25.

A limited number of people will be allowed to use the nearby field houses, trailers or shacks where people typically warm up or change into out of skates. They'll have to go through a health screening questionnaire and wear a mask. Their names and phone numbers will be collected to help with contract tracing, should that be necessary.

Matthew Kupfer/CBC
Matthew Kupfer/CBC

According to the city memo, which is signed by Dan Chenier, general manager of recreation, cultural, and facility services, "high-touch surfaces, such as railings and door handles, will be cleaned frequently during operational hours."

According to the memo, the city is predicting "continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic through the winter months."

Cleaning will be done primarily by community volunteers. City staff will also clean when they visit the site, said Chenier in an emailed response.

Additionally, anyone who enters city facilities including the outdoor rink will have to undergo a health screening and provide their name and contact information for contact tracing purposes, he said.

The pandemic may be the shot in the arm the volunteer-operated neighbourhood rinks need after years of dwindling interest. Last year, the city was obliged to send out an urgent plea for volunteers to help operate a dozen rinks at risk of being sidelined.

As with any non-pandemic year, outdoor rink ice must wait for 10-15 centimetres of snow and five to seven consecutive nights at –10 C or colder.

Lately, the process has begun around mid-December, with rinks ready for skating early in the New Year.

Click here to find a rink nearest you.