Active community member and seasoned outdoor rink builder Brian MacFarlane (right) along side an environmental science student shovels snow off of the rink.

Centennial College works on bringing rink to Morningside Park

Faculty and students of Centennial College's Morningside campus work with city to bring outdoor rink to the community

Outdoor ice rinks in Toronto are a focal point in the Scarborough community.

Scarborough however has traditionally been snubbed by the City of Toronto when it comes to the building of outdoor rinks. Centennial College is working to change that.

Faculty, students and community volunteers are actively turning the vast Morningside Park into a place for winter fun.

Professor of applied biology and environmental science, Michael Gauthier, is leading the Morningside Park natural rink project.

Gauthier has been at the forefront of many tree planting and clean-up efforts around the Progress and Morningside campuses. When the environmental science programs moved to the Morningside campus, they began to use the Morningside Park for labs and to study the ecology of the area.

“We have taken an interest in the area around our backyard,” Gauthier said.

Morningside Park is jammed with folks in the summer months, but there is very little happening in the wintertime

— Michael Gauthier

Gauthier explained that after a cleanup and tree planting effort in the spring of 2012 that had over 300 people take part, Toronto Parks and Forestry began to see the community taking a greater interest in the park. Since then, they have become strong supporters of what the community members are doing in the area.

“What has typically been going on is Morningside Park is jammed with folks in the summer months, but there is very little happening in the wintertime,” Gauthier said.

In the last three years, Toronto Parks and Forestry, Scarborough Coun. Paul Ainslie, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, and community members decided that it was time to take Morningside Park to another level. The next step for the park was to put in a management plan.

In October 2012, there was a meeting on Morningside Park and a discussion on what would be an appropriate management plan for the future.

Possible new park features were given such as bike trails, observation platforms, ecology walk-throughs and an ice rink. The ice rink won the bid.

Gauthier then worked with the Morningside Park manager and the manager of Scarborough’s parks, along with some graduates of the environmental science program and faculty members to decide where to put the new rink.

Home Depot is an active sponsor and has assisted in many of Gauthier’s past community events. It was only natural that he turned to them for assistance.

“I told Home Depot we were building an ice rink and asked if they were interested in helping out,” Gauthier said. “They got right back to me and agreed to be a part of the project.”

Home Depot gave the traps and all the wood that was needed to build the structure of the rink and covered the entire $1,800 venture because they felt that it was “a good activity” according to Gauthier.

Gauthier has also had the assistance of Brian MacFarlane, an active community member who has experience in creating outdoor rinks.

“With our rink, the best part about that is I get pictures all the time through emails,” MacFarlane said.

“When I had a crummy day at work and I click on the photos and there are eight or nine little kids with their moms and dads I think that is so awesome,” MacFarlane said.

MacFarlane is also an advocate of doing it right as he explained that he likes his ice “perfect.”

“I’m very particular about ice; I like to have the smooth ice, so I really baby the ice a lot which is OK because when you have little kids that is what you want to do,” MacFarlane said. “When you’re learning how to skate you have to have smooth ice.”

The environmental science program is not the only class at Centennial College that has played a part in this project. The architecture program and faculty and students from the hospitality and tourism program all lent a hand in either the planning or production of the rink.

“I will continue to look for people to be involved. I don’t like to say that this is a one person or one organization activity … I don’t mind if people don’t help, as long as they don’t get in the way of the process,” Gauthier said.

Gauthier will also continue to search for new ways for the college to get involved in the project so that it is beneficial for both the students and the future of the rink. He explained that the faculty of business program can have students working on possible marketing for the new community rink and architecture students may be able to create new plans for the future.

The rink’s grand opening is Saturday, Feb. 16.