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Charity left with shed full of unused skates after Toronto passes up donation

The Centre for Local Research into Public Space offered the city about 120 skates to create a lending program, similar to successful ones at three west-end rinks.

Jutta Mason says the Dufferin Grove Park rink is getting more traffic thanks to a skate-borrowing program.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Jutta Mason says the Dufferin Grove Park rink is getting more traffic thanks to a skate-borrowing program.

As Torontonians get ready to lace up at outdoor rinks this weekend, a local charity is baffled to see the city turn down a windfall of free skates.

Jutta Mason, a member of the non-profit Centre for Local Research into Public Space, helped set up successful skate library programs at three rinks in and around Dufferin Grove Park. Now the group has about 120 pairs, donated by the NHL Players' Association, which it's offered to the city to set up a similar initiative at other public rinks.

But the city said no.

"It was hard to figure out why, when it's so successful where they're doing it already," Mason said. "It's a shame."

At the three west-end rinks, skates can be rented for just $2 while helmets are free. City staff run the lending program.

The rentals are especially popular with young families and kids who grow out of pairs fast, Manson added.

"Among newcomers, as well, there's a big interest in Canadian winter sports, so we would like to have them used as much as possible," she said.

City Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Jane Arbour told Metro it's a matter of resources and staff. Skate libraries "are not available at every location because of the work required to manage borrowing and equipment," she wrote in an email.

Mason disagrees that more staff are needed.

"The existing rink staff are underemployed," she said. "There just isn't enough for them to do, so they're quite bored sometimes."

Arbour added the city is working with community partners to find ways to use the donation, "either by augmenting existing libraries or partnering with a community organization that can assist in managing a new library."

But for now, as outdoor skating season approaches, the skates are sitting in a shed in Dufferin Grove Park.

Mason thinks that's a waste, seeing the cheap rentals as way to help people access underused public spaces.

"A lot of the rinks have a lot of empty times," she said. "We want to see if a good idea can transfer within the bureaucracy, which is always a little tricky."

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