Understanding the Commons
( display item 2)
Setup: 10-Sep-2011 
The “helmets for pond hockey” meetings needed the collaboration of city rink management to take place. Not only was city management unwilling to engage with the issue, their work of closing off local rink user connections was expanded. Local telephone contact between rink users and staff was removed in favour of a central information line/web page. This information source was often wrong, and more rink users turned to the CELOS “cityrinks” website. Usage increased to the point where we had to upgrade the server so that more volume could be accommodated. Local “rink conditions” updates sent in by rink users were not accepted by the city’s central 311 information line, and the prospect of monitoring rinks citywide without staff collaboration was not within our budget.
The “No-helmet-no-shinny” policy was energetically but very intermittently enforced, with most of our rink-visit photos still showing traditional mixed helmet/no-helmet pond hockey. At the same time, during periodic enforcement blitzes, regular pond hockey players complained to cityrinks about being told to leave if they chose to be helmetless. We expanded our documentation about the reduction of rink use, the absence of injury claims and the broader rink issues needing oversight. We set up meetings (ongoing) with individual councillors who had outdoor compressor-cooled rinks in their wards, showing them our slide show/video “The social life of outdoor rinks,” in hopes of increasing their interest in this neighbourhood resource. In these conversations we learned that many city councillors have not thought much about the rinks at all. We also learned that many councillors are under the impression that the Parks, Forestry and Recreation operating budget has been cut most years, so that no improvements can be made. (In fact the operating budget has gone from just over $200 million in 2002 to just shy of $400 million in 2013.) In the light of the existing knowledge gaps, combined with a systemic unwillingness to collaborate, our idea of focusing on specific fixes like the non-consultative helmet rules (or the locked rink houses) seems sadly premature. However, the groundwork is laid. With patience and the help of our picture shows, it may be possible to enrich public conversation about good stewardship of the rinks, within the next few years.