FITZROY HARBOUR — Just off the main trail of the Morris Island Conservation Area near Fitzroy Harbour sits a small frozen inlet that David Lofstrom and his wife have turned into a skating area.
“We live just up the road and it was a nice place for the kids to skate,” says Lofstrom, who cleared dozens of square metres of snow to create a skating surface off a small inlet off the Ottawa River.
Lofstrom started the project last year for his family, but as more eyes found the rink, Lofstrom, who is an engineer, built a bench, sign, and installed lights to make the area more accessible to the public.
“As soon as we put up the sign at the entrance then people started understanding what it was,” says Lofstrom. “We’d have people coming while we were clearing it every day, every 20 minutes, saying can we use it? Is this private? And we’d say no of course not, come on out.”
On Monday, the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority went in and dismantled Lofstrom’s set up, taking down his sign, lights, and bench.
“Safety is our utmost priority,” says Shannon Gutoskie, the community outreach officer for the Conservation Authority. “Water levels on the Ottawa River, they are forever changing and ice conditions are forever changing. And they change rapidly.”
Lofstrom says he recognizes the safety concerns, but monitors the ice every day. “We do say don’t skate anywhere further than has been cleared. As far as it’s been cleared it’s at least 15 centimetres thick.”
The couple also point to a sign at the entrance of the conservation area that says winter use of the park is ‘at your own risk.’
“There’s ice everywhere and there’s footprints on the ice everywhere,” says Lofstrom. “So people do venture out onto the ice regardless.”
Gutoskie says the sign refers to activities permitted in the park, like hiking, but not skating.
“We want people to come to our conservation areas. We want people to enjoy the beauty of them. But we want them to do it safely and unfortunately skating is not a safe activity there. We’re not insured for that type on activity or the liability. We don’t have the resources to check ice conditions. We historically don’t check ice conditions.”
But Lofstrom is persistent that the area is safe and says there is no harm in skating the inlet. “I’m going to keep clearing it. And I’ll build another bench if they take this one away.”
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