NORTH BAY -- Skaters in the city are waiting for Mother Nature to bring chillier temperatures so they can lace up and head out to one of the city’s rinks.

The City of North Bay announced earlier this week all 10 of its rinks and the popular skating trail at Lee Park will open as soon as the weather allows.

“We’re happy that we’re going to be able to open them,” said parks manager David Schroeder. “We wanted to provide a safe outdoor activity for families and so it’s an excellent thing for them to do.”

Although the rinks will be open, they will look quite a bit different this year and those interested in skating should plan ahead.

“The washrooms aren’t going to be available,” said community service chair Johanne Brousseau. “It was like that this summer also at the beaches, depending on what type of plumbing was there. So we just need to be reasonable and know that we need to make sure that we eliminate and void everything before we leave the house and go and enjoy the ice surfaces for half an hour, 45 minutes and then plan to go back home.”

No Porta Johns

“We’re not even going to put out the Porta Johns this year," Schroeder added. "Again, it’s because we can’t come up with a program that’s going to keep them … clean and safe on an ongoing basis for the entire day.”

There are COVID-9 safety measures in place residents must follow once the rinks open.

“We’re putting some pretty simple benches that are attached to the rink themselves so people can change their skates," Schroeder said. "Obviously everyone’s going to have to follow the six-foot rule, wear a mask if you’re closer together, you know, if you have any of the symptoms of COVID don’t come to the rink.”

Officials said it is up to the individual to decide if they feel comfortable to be using the public space.

“We would like for everyone to follow the COVID protocols, which also means social distancing,” said Brousseau. “So if you feel that that ice surface, you cannot keep that six-feet apart, then maybe it’s time to just go wait for a few people to leave before you get back on the ice.”

However, even with the restrictions in place, Brousseau said it’s important the rinks are open and available this winter.

“I believe that we need to start taking care of our physical and mental health during this pandemic and to enjoy the outdoors and it will be good for the soul,” she said.

Same goal

That's something that Schroeder agrees with, saying that after 22 years, his goal is the same every winter.

“I always say if we can provide something that will get some boy or girl off the internet and out skating for a while outside in the winter, then we’ve done our job,” he said.

Following Tuesday’s heavy snowfall, there were several families and kids already taking advantage of the tobogganing hill at Lee Park and maintenance is underway to expand the skating trail this year so skaters have more space.

“It was so popular last year and to hear last night that they’ve extended it to a longer distance is going to be quite an exciting factor this winter,” said Brousseau.

Officials add the city is in constant communication with the health unit and adjustments will be made as needed throughout the season. But for now, they’re just waiting for the temperatures to stay steady around -10 so they can get the ice ready.