OP ED Mutchmor rink – stayin’ alive

Photo: Roger Smith

By Richard Webb

A Glebe resident recently wrote to local councillor Shawn Menard to ask about possible alternatives to the closure of the Mutchmor rink this year. The resident has shared the following response from Menard:

“Last year my office, the GCA, GNAG, the school board and Mutchmor school worked hard to see a return of a boarded hockey rink to the Glebe at a central location.

“After reviewing more than 10 sites in the vicinity it was found that Mutchmor was the only one that worked (for example, there are missing infrastructure elements at most other sites, such as power, a water source, etc). We worked closely with OCDSB staff to ensure its return and mitigate issues raised.

“I inquired with staff this year to see about an alternate, given the situation with the school, and none could be found that were suitable.

“We have spoken with city staff, the parent council and principal to ensure this boarded rink returns for next year.”

It is amazing what can get done when no one cares who gets the credit. But to laud Mutchmor and the school board as those who worked hard to ensure the return of the rink is both inaccurate and disingenuous. Not only were they not supportive, they were actively opposed.

Credit where it’s due

Despite what Menard says, prior to the involvement of an ad hoc group of community residents, the movement to return the rink to Mutchmor was effectively dead in the water and was being pushed at official levels only half-heartedly and at the margins. In fact, during discussions with Menard in his previous role as school trustee, he advised that “the OCDSB staff is not supportive of this and I personally find their reasoning to be sound.”  Later, as a councillor in 2018, he indicated that because the school board opposed reinstalling the rink, it was likely that nothing could be done. So much for “working hard to see a return of the rink.” It was only through continued pressure from the community that the rink was eventually returned to Mutchmor. To claim credit for the rink’s return while failing to give credit to the grassroots community that was the real motivating factor is a slap in the community’s face.

Brown’s Inlet an alternative?

With respect to alternate rink locations, the city has indicated it has been “exploring possibilities” since at least 2015. The bare assertion that other sites were considered and rejected is far from satisfactory. What other sites? Why were they rejected? What improvements that might have made them acceptable were considered? In particular, a suggestion was made that the city assist the local community in maintaining and expanding its annual rink on Brown’s Inlet. It already has an ice base in the winter, is locally maintained and presents no risk of flooding to or interference with adjoining properties. Presumably, it could be flooded with water beneath the ice, as is the canal. Why was this suggestion rejected?

Keep the community in the loop

And why was the community excluded from consultation or notification in respect of the closure of the Mutchmor rink and the consideration of alternatives, when it had so clearly expressed its interest in the issue in the past? Participatory democracy requires that all interests be considered and all parties consulted, not just political and bureaucratic ones.

Next year?

And finally, with respect to the Mutchmor rink in future years, “speaking with city staff, the parent council and principal to ensure this boarded rink returns for next year” falls well short of the guarantee requested by the community that the rink will continue to be installed on a yearly basis.

Richard Webb is a former Mutchmor School parent who has spearheaded the Glebe community’s efforts to have the Mutchmor rink returned to the community.

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