St. James residents build 1.5 km-long skating trail on Assiniboine River

With more time on their hands during the COVID-19 pandemic, some St. James residents have expanded their annual community-run river trail this year.

Winnipeggers like Cheryl Zubrack pitch in to shovel the ice and test for thickness

Cam Dorbolo uses ice from the river to create sculptures that are placed alongside the community-run river trail. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

With more time on their hands during the COVID-19 pandemic, some St. James residents have expanded their annual community-run river trail this year.

The community skating trail has been running in different iterations for over 20 years, and this year it's approximately 1.5 kilometres long thanks to the hard work of neighbours like Cheryl Zubrack — who's known as the shoveling queen. 

"It's a real community effort because other people come out and help, and people from the neighbourhood start shoveling with us, it's wonderful," she said. 

Cam Dorbolo was up past midnight creating an ice sculpture made out of river water for the skating trail on the Assiniboine River.

"Quarantine helps because you get bored, and why not cut big slabs out of the river and make some cool creations," said Dorbolo. 

Cam Dorbolo and his family helped create the community-run river trail. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

The skating rink consists of a small maze that links to a path running along the Assiniboine River. 

When skaters are cold or tired, the community has set up Christmas tree shelters, benches and stumps placed far enough apart to accomodate physical distancing. 

"There's so much space here. There's so much room, it's really easy for people to keep their distance from each other and still have fun outside," said Zubrack.

This year the trail can be spotted from the Assiniboine Park walking bridge, where it peters out. 

WATCH | St. James residents add ice sculptures to community-run skating trail:

"Quarantine kind of helps": River trail grows on Assiniboine River

2 years ago
Duration 1:49
Community members of a St. James neighbourhood added some TLC to their annual community river trail this year.

Zubrack said the community monitors the ice to ensure its thickness. 

Once the ice reaches six inches she says she's out shoveling, and this year she's amazed to see how much work her neighbours have put in. 

"We all have more time on our hands right now and people are around so everyone comes out and shovels when they can," Zubrack said.

The community-cleared river trail on the Assiniboine River trail is approximately 1.5 kilometers long. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

While the City of Winnipeg doesn't maintain the community-run trail, they want to remind residents to speak to their children about the dangers of all frozen bodies of water, especially retention ponds. 

City officials recommend using their official pleasure skating rinks instead of skating on rivers, creeks, ditches and retention ponds.

So far this year the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service has responded to 260 water and ice rescues. 

'Enjoy whatever we can during these times'

Lorie Wermie visited the trail for the first time, and said she feels safe knowing the community has checked the ice thickness.

"I feel safe, we are walking along the shore and the pathway, which makes me feel better." she said.

Families can enjoy shelters made of Christmas trees along the path. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

Wermie says Winnipegers should enjoy the winter weather and get outside if they can. 

She loves seeing people along the trail having a bonfire, cross-country skiing and skating.

"We need to get outside and enjoy whatever we can during these times,"  she said. 


Jonathan Ventura is a video journalist currently working for CBC Manitoba.


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