Richmond Green Skate Park
Strapping metal blades onto the bottom of your feet is such a Canadian thing to do.
Every winter, Canucks from coast-to-coast hunker down indoors, only leaving the warmth and security of their homes for one of three reasons – go to work, go to the store to buy supplies or go skating.
Luckily for those who call Richmond Hill home, the third option is just as easy as the first two – and often times, a lot more fun, especially if they’re heading out to experience the Richmond Green Skate Park, located at 1300 Elgin Mills Rd. East.
“I think what’s special about the trail is that we have fantastic music – all of the sirius xm radio stations and people really enjoy that – and we have over 20 huge trees full of holiday lights, so at night, between the music and the lights it’s just a fantastic experience,” said Mark Zubbinga, Manager of the Richmond Green Skate Trail. “We have free parking, it’s free to skate here and we have heated washrooms and people just love to skate outdoors.”
The Richmond Green Skate Trail is a unique and creative public feature that provides opportunities for young and old, novice and expert alike to enjoy outdoor skating.
The skate trail is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and features a 250-metre pathway lined with trees and other natural elements.
An asset to the community, the skate trail idea was introduced as part of the Richmond Green Master Plan Update of 2000, and was intended to provide an attraction that could be sustained all year round – ice skating in the winter and roller blading in the summer.
“We try to keep the skating trail open as long as we can, especially for the children,” Zubbinga said. “We try to ensure that it’s open for March Break but one of the challenges at that time of year is the sun. Sometimes, especially around noon on a bright sunny day, the ice might be a little soft. Nature dictates the length of season.”
To help nature keep her cool, the ice trail is artificially refrigerated and there are two compressors that work all day to keep the ice cool. Normally it’s around -10 to -12 degrees Celsius.
Before becoming a skate trail, the grounds were used for the Richmond Hill agricultural fair, but as the community expanded, the needs of its residents and members were taken into consideration in the update planning. The skate trail has been wholly embraced by the community. With climate change and otherwise milder winters causing the outdoor skating experience to become more of a rarity, having cultivated ice like this offers an opportunity to keep this Canadian tradition alive.
The trail is used daily, and there are peak times, with the weekends far busier than the weekdays. There are the regulars who show up for the physical fitness aspect, to get outdoors and stretch their legs. And then with PA days, the no-cost outdoor experience is popular for families. While the experience itself is free, folks have to remember to bring their own equipment as there are no equipment rentals on site. And second, helmets are recommended, especially for younger skaters.
“I think that when you’re out here, amid the huge trees and the islands, it almost feels like you’re skating on a frozen river,” Mark said. “It really is a fantastic experience.”