Regina’s Waskimo Winter Festival is putting all of its on-ice events on hold this year to help preserve the area for future development.
The Regina Speed Skating Club issued a notice on Thursday saying they were informed by festival organizers that the Provincial Capital Commission notified them that the ice in front of the Conexus Arts Centre cannot be used this year.
According to the speed skating club, the PCC told Waskimo organizers ice east of the Broad Street Bridge cannot be used for “environmental reasons.” The PCC is the government body that oversees Wascana Park.
The speed skating club plans on making an announcement if alternative plans are made.
In a statement, the PCC says that the location of Waskimo’s ice surface “is no longer ecologically sustainable from a long-term perspective for the Wascana Marsh area, which includes a federally designated migratory bird sanctuary.”
A PCC spokesperson said the ice surface location directly impacted nesting, habitat, food and protection for waterfowl. If Waskimo wanted to continue using this part of Wascana Marsh, they would apply for additional permits under two federal wildlife protection programs.
The statement goes on to say Waskimo organizers have been offered a free, on-land ice surface on the west side of Broad Street. The PCC also plans on including an extra $5,000 in funding to cover Waskimo rental costs.
The PCC said festival organizers accepted this offer and the festival will go ahead in multiple locations around Wascana Centre on February 17, Family Day.
The one-day festival, held on Family Day in February, offers outdoor activities ranging from skating and cross-country skiing, to cardboard outhouse races, snow cricket and horse-drawn sleigh rides.
As of Wednesday, the festival’s website was promoting a World Cancer Day Family Skate from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wascana Lake.
Waskimo returned to the ice surface at Wascana Lake in 2017 after a 15 year hiatus. Last year marked the first time since 2003, before the Big Dig at the site, that public skating was allowed on the lake.
A group of volunteers formed the non-profit organization in 2013, asking for support from Wascana Centre Authority, the city and province.