Rideau Canal Skateway to open next week

The Rideau Canal Skateway will open sometime next week, the National Capital Commission announced on Friday. A section of the Queen Elizabeth Driveway will also be closed to vehicles.

Section of Queen Elizabeth Driveway closing to traffic starting Saturday

A sign marks the downtown end of the Rideau Canal Skateway on Jan. 14, 2021. The National Capital Commission has announced the skateway will open sometime next week, despite the province's stay-at-home order. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

The Rideau Canal Skateway will open sometime next week, the National Capital Commission (NCC) announced Friday.

Before that happens, the section of Queen Elizabeth Driveway from Fifth Avenue to Somerset Street will close to traffic starting Saturday. It will be available for people "active use" from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, but that may sometimes be interrupted for snow removal, the NCC warned in a news release.

As for the official opening date of the skateway's 51st season, that will be announced on social media sometime next week when the ice is ready.

The NCC asks that people use amenities close to their homes due to Ontario's ongoing stay-at-home order and heightened public health restrictions.

Due to the pandemic, concession stands, skate rentals and changing facilities on the skateway will remain closed, and there will be no picnic tables or fire pits this season, the NCC said.

Sanitizing stands will be added where space allows, and traffic flow on staircases will be controlled. There will be 100 more benches for people to use while they lace up, and the skateway's Concord Street entrance will reopen this season after remaining closed for years.

The Rideau Canal Skateway's concession stands, such as this one photographed in mid-January, will stay closed for the 2021 skating season. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

    The NCC is asking everyone to wear masks while skating on the canal.

      "While the current situation is disappointing for all of us, dispersing use throughout our winter activity network during the current state of emergency is our best chance to ensure that our assets can be used safely and remain open," the NCC said.

      The NCC says it has expanded its amenities across the National Capital Region this winter, with more than 450 kilometres of trails where people can go for fresh air and exercise.

      The 7.8-kilometre Rideau Canal Skateway is free and accessible 24/7, typically from January to March. The NCC says it normally gets one million visitors per year. 

      The skateway is currently closed, and people should stay off the ice until the green flags are raised, says the NCC.

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