Creator of Freezeway idea feels frozen out by city

The designer of Edmonton’s Freezeway is upset that he’s no longer involved with the project now known as the IceWay.

'They don’t want any of my help and they’re not willing to compensate any of my time and expenses'

A sign welcomes skaters to the Freezeway, a 400-metre pilot project in Victoria Park last winter. The path is returning this year, under a different name. (CBC/John Robertson)

The designer of Edmonton's Freezeway is upset that he's no longer involved with the project now known as the IceWay.

Matt Gibbs, a former Edmontonian who lives in Vancouver, came up with the idea of the Freezeway.

Under his proposal, the Freezeway would make use of existing LRT and green corridors around Edmonton's downtown to create an 11-kilometre multi-use trail.

The City of Edmonton took him up on the idea, but scaled it back. The ice path, in the shape of a figure 8, was connected to the Victoria Oval last winter. Gibbs was involved in its launch just days before Christmas and plans for expansion were on display.

But last month he was told things had changed.

"They told me that essentially they've got it from here, and they don't need me anymore," Gibbs said. "They don't want any of my help and they're not willing to compensate any of my time and expenses, and they'll continue to use the title."

On Monday the city announced the return of the ice path but said it would now be known as the IceWay.

The Freezeway lit up by Edmonton-made lanterns earlier this year. (CBC)

Gibbs said he not only came up with the idea, he provided the city with his landscape architecture experience for the drawings, and even cost estimates for the project. He claims he hasn't received credit or compensation for his work.

"This was an opportunity for me to help develop my idea. Not for them to steal it from me."

Bringing ideas to the city

"The fact that he feels a bit jaded and pushed out is my biggest concern.'- Jody Bailey, freelancer

Mayor Don Iveson said he didn't know many of the details of the current relationship between Gibbs and city staff running the IceWay.

But Iveson said Gibbs received plenty of credit and recognition for his work.

"This is not a question of the city taking someone's business idea," Iveson said. "This was a suggestion from a citizen to do something innovative in a public space. I think the city took that suggestion in good faith and implemented it in a more practical way.

"If you've got a good idea, bring it to us and we'll try to implement it. But this isn't about me and any one individual. Great ideas, if they're any good, they grow, they take wings, and it's not about one person anymore. It's about what the community wants to do with it."

Don Iveson takes questions about the city's IceWay at City Hall. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Jody Bailey, a freelance photographer, writer and web developer, works with a lot of people who come up with ideas that eventually need city backing.

When Bailey saw the Freezeway had been renamed the IceWay, he had a feeling the original designer of the project was no longer involved.

He has published an online article saying that if Gibbs' allegations are true, "the City of Edmonton just set a very dangerous precedent that jeopardizes the future risks its citizens are willing to take."

"The fact that he feels a bit jaded and pushed out is my biggest concern because the ideas are nothing without all that effort and hard work," Bailey said in an interview. " I know what all that effort and hard work looks like and it really bothered me."

The city hopes to open the IceWay with an expanded ice surface and the possibility of second skating trail in early December.