By Dan Chook Reid
I arrived at Mutchmor Public School on May 15 not knowing how many chairs to put out. As the Health, Housing and Social Services chair with the Glebe Community Association (GCA), I was helping host a meeting to try to get clarity about whether or not there was any chance the Glebe would get a boarded rink back, furthermore a rink at Mutchmor School.
As the time approached, people began to arrive; first the school board representatives (Ottawa Carleton District), followed by city staff, then fellow GCA board members. It appeared as though it would be quite a small turnout. Then, right at 7 p.m., the community started to arrive.
Right away I noticed that it was a younger crowd than at an average community meeting I have attended. These were mainly parents of young children, predominantly Mutchmor, and the issue of a boarded rink held great significance. It was clear how invested the community was, particularly the neighbours surrounding the school.
The city and the board both made presentations. Dan Chenier presented an update on the city’s process in researching whether or not it was possible to return a boarded rink to the Glebe. As the presentation proceeded, it became very clear that the City of Ottawa is in strong support of returning a rink to the neighbourhood. In their view, Mutchmor’s field is the best option. There are various reasons (access to water, drainage), but the strongest was the central location.
The school board also presented. The Chief Financial Officer shared that a few months ago he was inclined to recommend that the school board simply just say no. Many reasons were given: poor sightlines for supervision, crowding on the school yard due to population size of the school and complaints from former school staff about the previous rink. There seemed now to be more openness from the board representative who is ultimately in charge of the decision.
As the night unfolded, it was amazing to see how our community responded. One by one, community members got up and made their case to see the community asset that they loved, restored. Neighbours spoke about how the rink being next to their house was not a liability and pleaded for its return. They spoke clearly that lighting and sound were not an issue and that they missed having a rink next door. The community spoke directly but kindly to each concern the school board raised and offered solutions to overcome the hurdles. Pledges to volunteer and care for the rink were given. In addition, GNAG (Glebe Neighbourhood Activities Group) members spoke to their willingness to offer their services and provide supervision and care for the rink to help manage any potential risks. Throughout the evening, the importance of the rink to the community became clear as did the impact the former rink had, and how important outdoor recreation and hockey in particular is for the next generation.
A highlight was when a Mutchmor student stood and pleaded for the rink’s return. With great clarity and sincerity he spoke to how much a boarded rink would mean to him and his friends. I do not know about the other adults present, but I almost shed a tear! The support was clear and unanimous.
The next steps will require the GCA to follow up with the school board. It became clear that Mutchmor really is the only viable option for returning a boarded rink to the Glebe. In addition, the community, at least those present, spoke clearly and passionately about their support. We will follow up with the school board and hopefully, even if it was once not foreseeable, we can convince the school board to give its approval. Returning a boarded rink to the Glebe has not been easy, but this neighbourhood is tenacious. We have not given up yet. Hopefully we will all celebrate with a game of shinny on a nearby rink in early 2020.
Dan Chook Reid co-chairs the Glebe Community Association’s Health, Housing and Social Services Committee.