Ottawa skaters take advantage of Rideau Canal’s partial opening while they can

Heavy snow blanketed some of the views, and the ice was in rough shape, but that didn’t stop skaters from gliding down the partially opened Rideau Canal Skateway today.

About a kilometre-long section of canal opened Sunday to the relief of many Ottawa residents who worried it would remain closed for the second winter in a row, following an unusually warm December.

The National Capital Commission says it plans to open more sections of the 7.8-kilometre rink as ice conditions become safer.

But some of the skaters lacing up near Pretoria Bridge today worried that with above-zero temperatures expected later this week, the canal could close again.

They headed out to take advantage of the opportunity while they could, though multiple skaters said the ice was rough.

The NCC also urged skaters to get out while it’s possible. “Conditions are variable,” it said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

Colin Campbell said he looked at the forecast, which shows a high of 5 C on Friday, and wanted to make sure he got out on the ice. “So I was like, OK, then this might be my only opportunity,” he said.

Campbell was taking off his skates when he offered to help Joanne MacLellan.

MacLellan, visiting from Sudbury, was getting ready for her first-ever skate on the canal and said she hoped she wouldn’t fall.

“I’m just glad they figured out how to open it up in chunks instead of worrying about the whole piece being open,” she said.

Craig Winegarden described the ice as “crunchy.”

“Lots of people are doing little front falls,” he said. “But they’re slow falls and everybody is happy to be out.”

Jacky Lee, a medical student from Toronto, said skating on the canal was on his “bucket list” of Ottawa activities, so he grabbed his skates as soon as it opened Sunday and stayed on the ice for hours, then returned the next day with a group of friends.

“I’m really grateful they managed to get it frozen,” he said.

Taking off her speed skates, Fiona Marshall described being out on the ice as “joyful.”

She attended a community “vigil” for the canal last year, when an unseasonably warm winter kept the canal from opening for the first time.

“Even though it’s not a natural environment, it makes you that much more aware (that) things are changing,” Marshall said. “It’s not just about the climate warming up, but the instability of weather.”

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