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Vigil planned to mourn Rideau Canal Skateway

The closed Rideau Canal Skateway on Tuesday, Feb. 21. The NCC announced on Friday the world's largest skating rink will remain closed for the winter due to the mild temperatures. (Josh Pringle/CTV News Ottawa) The closed Rideau Canal Skateway on Tuesday, Feb. 21. The NCC announced on Friday the world's largest skating rink will remain closed for the winter due to the mild temperatures. (Josh Pringle/CTV News Ottawa)
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Community groups in Ottawa are planning a vigil to mourn the Rideau Canal Skateway, which did not open for the first time in its 53-year history this year.

"We will gather in community to honour loss, climate grief, and uncertainty surrounding the canal skateway, and explore collective resilience and positive action," organizers said in a news release.

The planned vigil comes after the National Capital Commission finally pulled the plug on efforts to open the canal for skaters this year following weeks of mild weather. It's the first time since 1971 the UNESCO world heritage site hasn't opened for skating.

"The canal is … part of our identity, with many diverse meanings, connections, and benefits for our community," vigil organizers said.

The vigil is scheduled for Tuesday from 5 to 6 p.m. at Patterson Creek Park, steps from kilometre marker 2.6 along the skateway.

Heart Land, a group of healing practitioners, is hosting the vigil in partnership with Community Deathcare Ottawa, a collective of end-of-life care workers, and Ecology Ottawa, an environmental group.

Organizers said the vigil will be a time to "pause and acknowledge what is happening due to higher temperatures and a changing climate" as well as "honour feelings related to this loss within the support of community."

The gathering will also allow people to "be with the canal and our uncertainty, not knowing what will happen in the years to come," organizers said.

Organizers say all are welcome and the event is free, but they are asking people to register if they plan to come.

After warmer-than-usual weather for much of January and February, the NCC finally announced last Friday that the skateway would not open this winter.

"Despite our best efforts, the weather got the best of us for the first time in our history," the NCC said on Friday. "You're disappointed. We're disappointed."

A July 2021 risk assessment on the effects of climate change on the skateway warned that in the next decades, the skating season would be less than 40 days about 50 per cent of the time.

The NCC has been working with researchers at Carleton University to collect data on the skateway and test options for ice management.

"We’ve been assessing and preparing for the impacts of climate change for several years," the NCC said last week.

The lack of skating on the canal has been a blow to Ottawa’s tourism sector, with hotel bookings down this year during Winterlude.

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