Skating on Winnipeg retention ponds likely still off-limits this winter – Winnipeg

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Outdoor enthusiasts in Winnipeg hoping to officially be allowed to skate on some retention ponds this winter likely won’t get that opportunity.

A report discussed at city hall on Friday isn’t favouring a city program for recreation on retention ponds, after the public service found community associations and centres didn’t show interest in maintaining the rinks. The city’s insurer also advised against the use of the retention ponds for winter recreation, according to the report.

“Without 100 per cent assurance, it almost sounds like it’s status quo as it has been for decades,” said Transcona Coun. Shawn Nason, who’s advocated for finding ways to use the ponds safely. “People will do what they do, but it’s not under the authorization of the city.”

Read more:
Winnipeggers will have to skate away from retention ponds this winter

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“I think this avenue has run its course,” Nason told Global News on Friday. “I still think more work needs to be done and perhaps in a longer-term lens.”

Many Winnipeggers took to skating on retention ponds last winter — especially after COVID-19 public health measures forced indoor rinks to close — which was the case in Waverley West, a ward with two land-based pleasure rinks and three hockey rinks but 42 retention ponds, Waverley West Coun. Janice Lukes said.

The city doesn’t permit retention-pond skating and warns of thin ice that may not be obvious from the surface. The city says runoff from snowmelt or water main breaks that drain into retention ponds often contain street salts and make the ice melt.

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The public service looked at the cost of setting up five new pleasure rinks along with a couple of different options for running five retention pond rinks. The report says those land-based rinks would come with a total price tag of $51,750. For the retention ponds, one option would cost the city more than $29,000 if staff only measured the ice thickness and put up signs. The other would total about $82,000 to prepare and maintain the rinks, including testing for ice thickness but excluding equipment expenses.

But the city’s insurer recommends Winnipeg keep its signs up warning of the safety risk, according to the report.

“It’s a step in risk aversion,” Lukes said. “My main goal in all of this was to have safe sheets of ice for residents to skate on,” she said, adding that she doesn’t want the city ticketing people who take to the ponds.

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Some wards have more than a dozen pleasure rinks, Lukes said, and she’ll be pushing for more equity on where future ones are placed.

“We’re the fastest-growing ward in the City of Winnipeg,” she said. “COVID really amplified the need for getting out and people wanting to get out on skates.”

Lukes said she hopes she’ll get some funding for one or two pleasure rinks in Bridgwater Trails and Prairie Pointe once the city budget gets decided so that they could be finished by the end of January.

Click to play video: 'City retention ponds off-limits this winters for skaters'

City retention ponds off-limits this winters for skaters

City retention ponds off-limits this winters for skaters
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