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NCC adapting to weather conditions to keep Rideau Canal Skateway open longer, officials say

People enjoy skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, Ont. on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Brad Quinn/CTV News Ottawa) People enjoy skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, Ont. on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Brad Quinn/CTV News Ottawa)
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The National Capital Commission says it will continue to learn and adapt to the weather conditions to keep the Rideau Canal Skateway open longer for skating, including focusing on just opening the "best section" for skating.

The Rideau Canal Skateway closed for the season Sunday evening, following 10 days of skating this winter.  It's the shortest season on record for the world's largest skateway.

The NCC initially opened a section of the Rideau Canal Skateway on Jan. 21, but mild weather, freezing rain and rain only allowed the NCC to open it for 10 days over five weeks.

"We had some kind of season, it was doing a yo-yo effect on us," Patrick Laliberte, NCC Director of Urban Lands and Greenbelt (Ontario), told Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa at Work. "It was alternating between warm sequences and cold sequences, so we had to adapt to it."

The NCC opened the section of the Rideau Canal Skateway between Bank Street and the Pretoria Bridge for all 10 days, while the section between Waverley Street and Pretoria Avenue was open for two days.

Guest host Graham Richardson asked Laliberte that after only 10 days of skating over two years, is the NCC at the stage to look at moving away from the Rideau Canal Skateway.

"I don't think we are there yet. We learned from last year and we adapted to these conditions and that's how we were able to achieve these 10 days of skating this year. I'm not throwing the towel that quick," Laliberte said.

"But as you mentioned, there is questions that we have to ask ourselves every year about how can we adapt and how can we do better."

Laliberte says the Rideau Canal Skateway is divided into seven subsections, each with "very specific patterns" for building the ice.

"Sometimes, there are sections that are better than the others, so we may have to focus on these ones." Laliberte said.

The 10 skating days this winter makes it the shortest skating season on record for the Rideau Canal Skateway, excluding last year when the skateway didn't open at all. In 2016, the skateway opened for just 16 days. In 2022, the entire 7.8-kilometre length of the skating rink was open for 41 days.

The NCC is working with researchers at Carleton University on projects to open the Rideau Canal Skateway earlier and longer, including using slush cannons and a 'Snobot,' which is a lightweight robot to remove early blankets of snow.

Richardson asked that if the mild winters continue, will the NCC move away from attempting to open the full 7.8 km of the Rideau Canal Skateway.

"It depends on what we will get in terms of weather conditions, but that's what we kind of did this year," Laliberte said.

"We were able to have our best section, between Bank and Pretoria, and that's what we used to provide some good experience to the people."

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