Reopening the outdoor skating rink at Stuart Park in downtown Kelowna — which is used by 25,000 people between December and February — has been a challenge for council this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Council has to strike a balance with PHO (public health officials) orders especially around the 50-person maximum,” Coun. Loyal Wooldridge told Global News. “When we look at Stuart Park, from where I sit, I believe that would justify being an event, so we have to be really sensitive in the amount of people using the asset at one time.”
The rink is often very crowded, especially after work and school and on weekends.
“We do have to be cognizant of the risk of bringing families of all ages together and creating transmission points,” Wooldridge said.
That’s prompting the city to consider different options on how to reopen the site.
“It’s one of our most popular community assets because it provides an equitable recreation service for residents and visitors in Kelowna. There’s no cost to it,” Wooldridge said. “I think that this winter it’s paramount that we recognize that everyone get as much fresh air and sunshine as possible as the pandemic fatigue takes it’s toll on mental health.”
A staff report outlines three possible options for the outdoor rink.
The first involves opening the site on a casual drop-in basis with self-regulation.
“People will have to self monitor and limit numbers through self regulation,” Wooldridge said. “They would bring in contracted support staff during the peak hours… that would be to monitor the gathering size and the physical distancing.”
Services like skate rentals, the fire pit and food vendors would be removed to restrict people from gathering.
The second option is more restrictive, involving the creation of entry and exit points, the implementation of measures to control crowd size and pre-registration to use the site.
“To have more of a booking option for those peak times, having a one hour limit and then having a maximum 50 participant load per session,” Wooldridge stated.
The third option is not reopening the rink.
City council will discuss the options at its upcoming council meeting on Monday.
According to a recent survey conducted for the city, 48 per cent of respondents said their use of parks and outdoor spaces increased over the past six months.