Large crowds at Ottawa City Hall skating rink prompt concerns about pandemic safety
Skaters on the Rink of Dreams at Ottawa City Hall on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021. (Shaun Vardon / CTV News Ottawa)
OTTAWA -- The Rink of Dreams at Ottawa City Hall is one of the few city amenities that remains open during Ontario's provincewide shutdown and it's proving to be a popular spot.
A video posted to Twitter Saturday evening showed large crowds of people on and around the ice of the refrigerated rink. It also appeared to show people in large groups standing close to each other. Many were not wearing masks.
Sarp Kizir, who posted the video, says he hopes city officials will take action and enforce new rules at outdoor rinks.
“When places are empty in other parts of the town, but a place like this is completely busy and packed, that makes a lot of people upset,” Kizir said. “I was shocked. I was really put off by the number of people on the rink and the number that did not have masks on.”
The video has been seen on Twitter more than 8,000 times as of Sunday afternoon.
In a statement, the City of Ottawa told CTV News that masks are mandatory when on or near the ice, but not while skating.
“The City of Ottawa is aware of concerns from residents regarding crowds at some of our outdoor skating rinks. On December 30, an Order requiring masks at outdoor skating rinks was issued under the Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law,” said Roger Chapman, Director of Bylaw and Regulatory Services. “This means that if residents are simply standing on the ice or are within 15 metres of the edge of the ice surface, they are required to wear a mask. Masks are however not mandatory for rink users that are actively engaged in skating, but they are highly recommended as per public health guidelines.”
The City's website also says that skaters who are not from the same household must maintain a distance of two metres from all other skaters at all times.
On Sunday, bylaw officers were out enforcing the rules and reminding people to wear their masks, but concerns remain.
Doug Spencer, who was out on the ice Sunday, said he thinks the current rules make sense, but adds that if the rink gets too crowded, people should be forced to wear a mask.
“At the end of the day, the main thing is safety,” Spencer said. “If wearing the mask allows us to still partake in an activity like skating, then I’m all for it.”
Kizir says he hopes his video sparks a conversation about the need for safety. He wants to remind people the pandemic is far from over.
“A lot of people who are upset are disappointed and confused about the messaging coming from public health and the City,” Kizir said. “The City should get strict about how many people are allowed on the ice.”
On its website, the City says attendants are tasked with ensuring capacity limits are maintained.
"Rink attendants are onsite during peak periods to ensure capacity limits are maintained. During peak periods, we will be changing out groups of skaters on the hour, to ensure everyone gets a chance to skate," the City of Ottawa says.