Community ‘jewel’ sparkles in return visit


By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large


Returned to one of the city’s outdoor ‘jewels’ the other day.

It was before early-morning Sunday Mass. I’d heard the skating trails at Woodlawn Park were back in use a few days last week; in my book, they are amongst our recreational jewels.

The trails still were covered by freshly-fallen flakes  – a light dusting overnight and just after dawn. Still, the marks of a skater or maybe two could be seen on the large patch of ice nearest Woodlawn Road.

I visited here often in years gone by, when the ice was groomed by city crews and local volunteers for use by recreational skaters and hockey players alike. The ribbons of ice that led into the woods provided getaways for figure-skater wannabes – they needed not worry about pucks flying past, or roughhousing hockey heroes bursting through and interrupting routines still in deep-concentration rehearsal mode.

Choice times for this blades-of-steel enthusiast were pre-dawn hours or late evening, skating under the stars. The trails were best enjoyed with no one else in sight or on site, that is if pursuit and enjoyment of solitude are what matter most in one’s priorities. And when conditions were right, there was no better place to go.

I’ve written about a New Year’s Eve skate, now a few years in the past and wish to excerpt:

If lucky, smoke from a nearby home’s woodstove will be snaking into the starlit sky; from far off, the din of late night (or very early morning) partygoers will be heard but not necessarily experienced.

Times and places such as this afford us opportunity to rendezvous with self and with what the year about to expire brought our way.

(Recently, I’d found another inspirational venue, the college campus and walking trails, and especially at evening the lighted staircase that climbs to the peak of a towering berm).

But, Sunday morning, camera in hand, I returned to idyllic Woodlawn
Park to trek across the ribbons of ice and into the woods.

To my heart’s content, I was alone on powder-blanketed ice, blazing a trail as in years gone by when delicacies such as this still were regarded acts of beauty. And surprise, surprise – how it felt good to be like a kid again!

One time or another in our lives, perhaps more depending on our sense of daring, we answer a call to be trailblazers – pioneers in a sense. You know the feeling, memories won’t let you forget. And those of Woodlawn Park visits from years ago among them still, the jewel in our midst.

(A former reporter and editor, Joe Barkovich lives in Welland, Ont.)

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