News / Edmonton

Freezeway designer says city now freezing him out

City renames path, says project different from original concept.

Matt Gibbs, designer of the Freezeway, says he feels pushed out, now that the city is going ahead with a new ice path called the IceWay, without him.

File / Metro

Matt Gibbs, designer of the Freezeway, says he feels pushed out, now that the city is going ahead with a new ice path called the IceWay, without him.

The creator of the Freezeway, the urban skating path that has garnered Edmonton international attention, says city officials have “steamrolled” him out of the very project he envisioned.

Matt Gibbs says after designing the original concept, which won top prize in the COLDSCAPES International Urban Design competition in 2013, he poured thousands of dollars and hundreds of volunteer hours into the pilot project in Victoria Park last year, only to be jettisoned last month.

“It was not even, ‘Thank you for your effort,’ it was ‘Thank you, please leave,’” Gibbs said Monday, from Vancouver.

The Edmonton Freezeway made headlines around the world.

Metro file

The Edmonton Freezeway made headlines around the world.

The city announced Monday that a slightly bigger ice path will be back in Victoria Park this winter, but under a different name: the IceWay.

The reason? Depends on who you ask.

City spokesperson Gayleen Froese says some people last year associated the name with Gibbs’ original proposal, a network of skating paths through downtown.
“People were confused because they heard about the Freezeway initially as this skate-to-work concept and this is a different application of this idea, so we thought it’d be better to go with a different name and people will be clearer,” Froese said.

But Gibbs said the city treated him “appallingly” for months by not answering his emails and using his artwork without credit. Then, he said, they told him his help wouldn’t be needed this year.

He says in response he told them they couldn’t use the Freezeway name.

“I have a right to defend my intellectual property which is the idea they’re moving forward with,” he said.

Roger Jevne, branch manager of community and recreation facilities for the city, disagrees.

“The idea of a linear pathway isn’t unique, they exist in parks all over North America," he said.

“It’ll be very similar to last year, but [we're] just looking at renaming it to respect that it’s not the Freezeway as Mr. Gibbs had originally envisioned it."

Gibbs says the city originally approached him about developing the Freezeway.

Although last year's pilot — a 400-metre trail in a figure eight — was nowhere near what he’d originally proposed, he says he was eager to help and prove the concept.

Gibbs created artwork for the project, arranged the light installations and flew between Vancouver and Edmonton several times for meetings and media events — all out of pocket.  

“I wanted to share my gifts with the city of Edmonton, my hometown [and] this was a project of passion I was devoting my heart to, and I thought I’d at least be graced with the opportunity to stay involved,” he said.

The city has used the artwork he created to advertise the project and he points out the Freezeway garnered the city positive headlines around the world.  

“I’m really grateful that I was able to inspire this idea and bring it forward to the public,” he said. “But to see the city operate as such bullies is mind blowing.”

Jevne said that wasn't the city's intention.

“We feel bad for Mr. Gibbs — this not an attempt to freeze him out —but we’re just extending our oval and building a linear skating path in Victoria Park again.”

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