The Rideau Canal Skateway will open during the stay-at-home order. Here's why

·2 min read

The Rideau Canal Skateway will open this winter to give Ottawans another opportunity for physical exercise during the current stay-at-home order, the National Capital Commission (NCC) says.

Some were perplexed when the federal agency announced Wednesday that the skateway — a prominent symbol of the nation's capital, and a powerful winter tourist draw — would open at the same time the Ontario government was telling people to stay indoors for all but essential activities.

But according to Dominique Huras, strategic communications adviser for the NCC, the commission will keep all its assets open for "exercise and active use"

"It's very important during this pandemic to be able to get outside," Huras said Thursday. "We're also counting on the co-operation of users to comply with the newly issued public health measures, as well as those that we've all practised for many months."

'Some sort of trap?'

After the NCC revealed its plans yesterday afternoon for the skateway — which include maintaining the ice surface but not opening skate rental kiosks or concession stands — people chimed in on social media.

Many, but not all, couldn't understand the rationale.

Late Wednesday night, the province issued the official stay-at-home order, which outlined the acceptable reasons people could be out in public between now and Feb. 11. Exercise is among them.

Huras said the NCC hoped people would abide by the provincial rules while also not venturing too far from home to use the skateway, once it eventually opens.

No opening date has yet been set, she added. NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum said on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Friday it could happen next week, weather permitting.

"Physical and mental health is a very important aspect right now, and we're trying to do our part to promote that ... to get outside, exercise, get some fresh air," Huras said.

The NCC is expecting people to wear masks while skating on the canal, and will also install sanitation stations where space allows.

The NCC will also block a stretch of the Queen Elizabeth Driveway to vehicular traffic to give people another option to stay active outdoors during the current lockdown.

Nussbaum said that would likely happen when the Skateway opens.