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Vaughan staff member salts skating rink for COVID-19 lockdown

Thornhill father upset he can no longer take daughter skating after city's strict lockdown measures ban skating
Jan. 20, 2021
Jeremy Grimaldi

Like most parents during this pandemic, Keith MacDonald has been struggling to stay active and outdoors with his daughter Holly, 3.

The one thing the pair could consistently do together, besides walk, was go skating, an activity they both loved.

No longer, in Vaughan anyways.

It was on Jan. 9 that a shocked MacDonald, who lives in Thornhill, filmed a now viral video of a Vaughan city employee salting the ice at Garnet Williams Community Centre on Clark Avenue West.

"It just seems like such an extreme response ... I'm disappointed," he told the Vaughan Citizen. "It was one of the only things open for kids and adults to enjoy and get some exercise. It seems like the city was a bit heavy-handed."

The video comes as other cities and towns make u-turns on their plans to close skating rinks and tobogganing hills.

In Newmarket, Mayor John Taylor initially closed both before seeking clarification from Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who reiterated both activities were allowable. Toronto Mayor John Tory has also left both open.

At least one resident, Tracy Kent, has grown frustrated with the lack of flexibility shown by Vaughan, which she feels is focusing on punishing individuals and not companies that appear to remain open.

Kent wondered why she could see countless factory parking lots full, but children couldn't skate or toboggan.

"Parking lot full at luxury furniture manufacturer on Chrislea, but you'll ticket kids for sledding," she wrote to Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua on Twitter.

MacDonald said he was further disappointed that, regardless of what happens with the virus, pouring salt on the rinks essentially means there will be no more skating this season.

"I felt very safe, everyone was safely distanced when it was running," he said. "Now there's no more skating. It's a struggle for anyone with kids."

In response, Vaughan spokesperson Justin Gaul said the city wanted to ensure safety was the priority.

"The decision to take this latest precautionary step was made after careful consideration and in response to rising cases of the virus," wrote Gaul. "It also comes following the Province of Ontario’s recent stay-at-home order and declaration of a second provincial emergency. All decisions about closing and opening facilities continue to be informed by Vaughan-specific data and reflect guidance issued by York Region Public Health and the provincial government."

Vaughan has been a hot spot for COVID-19 cases with a total of 9,716 cases since the outbreak began.

He added that trails are still open and the city has yet to fine anyone for outdoor sports, instead focusing on "education."