outdoor hockey rink
Photo by B Calkins / Shutterstock

Edmonton family fined for building a rink on a lake behind their house

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Cities across Canada have tried to ban tobogganning on local hills, and now they’re cracking down on an even more beloved winter pastime: pond hockey.

At least that’s the way it seems to be going after the city of Edmonton blocked one family’s attempt to create an outdoor rink for a small New Year’s Eve party. What was supposed to be a night of celebration and soaking in the fresh winter air turned out to be one of tears and frustration.

According to the Edmonton Journal, Brian Tomlinson shovelled snow off of a 200-square-metre section of Poplar Lake, also known as Klarvatten Wetland, which sits just behind his family home. He then went out and spent about $250 on garden hose, so that he could reach the homemade rink and flood it to perfection.

Unfortunately, no one got to test how smooth Tomlinson’s rink was, because at around 11:30 a.m. on December 31, two park rangers, who were reportedly called by a neighbour, wrote Tomlinson a $100 ticket for “modifying land in a way likely to cause injury.”

“There were no boards, no lights, there wasn’t even a net,” Tomlinson’s wife, Morgann, told the National Post. “The modification was shovelling it and flooding it…actually, it would prevent injury,” she told the Edmonton Journal.

It would have also prevented some teary-eyed children, who ended up spending the evening indoors playing video games instead of outside skating.

But according to Sgt. Greg Komarniski of the city’s park ranger unit, the signage telling people to stay off Poplar Lake is in place for a reason. Ice can be thin in some stormwater-influenced wetlands if the water underneath has receded, or if there’s warming from rotting vegetation, he told the Edmonton Journal.

“The city doesn’t want to rain on anybody’s parade for setting up a hockey rink,” he added. “In this case, it just comes down to reasons deemed by [city staff].”

But Morgann isn’t buying it—she says there weren’t any problems when they set up a similar rink the previous Christmas, and apparently, she’s seen people snowshoeing and pulling toboggans across the lake this year.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time a Canadian family has got themselves in trouble for trying to partake in an innocent game of shinny.

Last year, a family in Ajax, Ontario battled a fine for erecting hockey boards in their very own yard. And two years before, in Chestermere, Alberta, the community bid to create a local pond hockey league fell through after town council intervened and shut the idea down, citing “liability issues.”

“We’re raising bubble-wrapped children and it’s a shame. You want people to get out, get active…it’s ridiculous,” Morgann said, and some experts agree.

“We should be encouraging our kids to play outdoors, to have that adventure, to skate on a pond—without so many regulations,” Allana LeBlanc, knowledge manager at ParticipACTION, a not-for-profit promoting a healthy and active lifestyle for Canadians, told the National Post.

That’s what the Tomlinson’s were trying to do, which is why Morgann plans to fight the ticket her family received in provincial court next month.

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