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The push to make Toronto's outdoor rinks more accessible

Affordable skate rentals would bring more people to the city's rinks, says one city councillor.

Dufferin Grove Park skating rink, where you can rent a pair for about $2.

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Dufferin Grove Park skating rink, where you can rent a pair for about $2.

Let's make sure everybody can hit the ice.

Coun. Mike Layton will bring that most Canadian ideal to the Jan. 17 meeting of the city's Community Development and Recreation Committee, asking city staff to explore skate libraries at outdoor rinks and report back this summer.

Skates can be expensive, especially for families with little ones and their fast-growing feet.

"Certainly for new Canadians, like maybe this is the first couple years of their Canadian experience, let's make it a good one. Let's make them feel welcome to use the infrastructure that so many of us grew up with," Layton said.

"You've got this infrastructure sitting there screaming, 'Come on, use me.'"

Jutta Mason, part of a non-profit called the Centre for Local Research into Public Space, helped set up a program at Dufferin Grove and two other rinks where people can rent skates for about $2 a pair.

They've been a huge success, she says, bringing more people, especially newcomers, onto the ice. Mason has been pushing other rinks to follow suit for a long time.

"We (the group around have been asking for better outdoor rink programs since 2007, and maybe 11 years later they'll make a start, but I'm not holding my breath," said Mason in an email.

In early December, city staff said they were considering how to use about 120 pairs of skates donated by the NHL Players' Association and offered up by the Centre for a lending program at the Regent Park rink.

Matthew Cutler, spokesperson for Parks, Forestry and Recreation, said there doesn't seem to be enough of a crowd at Regent Park to support a skate library full-time.

"We're going to try out a few different ways to animate the space and see what works," he said, explaining that the city has been in discussions with stakeholders about planning skate parties and possibly learn-to-skate events.

On Layton's motion, Cutler said the city is "open to anything that helps increase use."

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