A group of residents in the community of Claremont in North Pickering say a skating pond has been abruptly shut down.
While the land is owned by the federal government, Steve Macaluso says they’ve been using it for years.
“It’s pretty disturbing and upsetting,” says Macaluso, who has lived in the area for the past seven years.
It was on Monday when residents came to skate at the outdoor pond as they have every winter, only to discover it was gone after a conversation with a property manager that works for Transport Canada, the owner of the land.
“They were just mentioning you guys can’t be down here, this is private property,” said Macaluso.
What’s most frustrating for residents is it came out of nowhere. Sarah Conham has been using the rink since she was a kid and says the idea of shutting down something they worked years to create is upsetting.
“It doesn’t make sense to me,” she says. “It just doesn’t make sense that this land had to be picked on for no reason.”
The rink has reportedly become a staple to people in the area, with someone even building a change hut for kids to change into their skates. But residents say that was also taken away.
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“That was all dismantled and destroyed,” says Macaluso. “We were told that this was not available for skating any longer.”
Residents also say the ice has been broken down by what appears to be salt. But in a statement, Transport Canada says their consultants did no such thing.
“Transport Canada did not give the direction for the use of salt,” it says. “We did not use anything that would have further contaminated the federal lands.”
The outdoor rink has been used for the past several years in the tight-knit community, and people who live nearby say it’s been especially useful during the pandemic.
“Our biggest concern is we are looking to get our kids outside,” Macaluso said. “This was a great opportunity for our community to get out here.”
Macaluso has a son who plays hockey and daughter who figure skates, both of whom have been unable to practice since skating rinks were closed. His son Anthony says it’s confusing to know why they would take that away.
A ‘no trespassing’ sign was posted by Transport Canada as the lands are federally-owned. The pond is part of an agricultural property that is currently leased to a third-party, but residents say it’s never been a problem before and they are disappointed with how everything was handled.
“That wasn’t enough for them,” says Pat Macaluso. “They had to come in and destroy it. It’s very mean-spirited.”
The matter is now before the federal government as area MP Jennifer O’Connell is also trying to figure out what happened. She tells Global News there has been some concern about liability with the property, but she acknowledges the process could have gone smoother.
“There were a lot of things that could have been handled a lot better in this scenario,” she said.
“COVID-19 guidelines prohibit outdoor gatherings of the size that were occurring on the rink,” Transport Canada officials said.
They went on to say that Durham Regional Police were involved as well. But when Global News reached out, Durham police said they were not aware of the issue. O’Connell, who represents the riding of Pickering and Uxbridge, says they do hope to come to some sort of resolution.
“We’re looking at if there is a way to kind of carve out this portion, the pond and this portion of the property out of the tenant’s lease,” O’Connell said.