Harken­ing Back to a By­gone Era

Ottawa Magazine - - THIS CITY -

You don’t have to be Hans Brinker to ap­pre­ci­ate an icy saunter un­der an ev­er­green canopy pop­u­lated by win­ter birds. While Ot­tawa has the Rideau Canal and Gatineau has Lac Leamy, the Ou­taouais has an en­chant­ing skate path that winds its way through the woods in Lac-des-Loups.

The mag­i­cal Pati­nage en forêt was cre­ated by Dave Mayer, an Ou­taouais con­trac­tor bet­ter known for build­ing sun­rooms for lo­cal home­own­ers. But that’s a sum­mer thing, and come win­ter, his land beck­oned to be put to use. Mayer isn’t much of a skater — he took his first spin on the ice in 30 years dur­ing the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the skate path this past win­ter. But the point wasn’t to build it for him­self; the point was to cre­ate some­thing that got peo­ple out­doors while keep­ing him­self busy dur­ing the slow months.

The three-kilo­me­tre loop at­tracted more than 15,000 en­thu­si­asts from across Canada and around the world dur­ing its first sea­son. It’s not a stretch to say peo­ple fell in love — in fact, the path served as a back­drop for a few mar­riage pro­pos­als. And the peo­ple of Lac-des-Loups em­braced the ini­tia­tive: when Mayer made a pre­sen­ta­tion be­fore mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil this past Septem­ber to re­zone the land so that the skate path can be­come a per­ma­nent fix­ture, more than 100 lo­cals were there to back him up. There are naysay­ers (ev­ery com­mu­nity has its share of NIMBYs), but skat­ing on a crys­tal sur­face un­der a bril­liant blue sky tends to bring out the best in peo­ple, whether lo­cal or from away.

Per­haps some of the en­thu­si­asm for Pati­nage en forêt stems from the fact that it of­fers an ex­pe­ri­ence the Rideau Canal once did — a space bereft of spon­sor lo­gos, BeaverTails, and noise. Mayer’s skate path harkens back to a by­gone era when the fo­cus was sim­ply a beloved pas­time: skat­ing in the open air. —Me­lanie Scott

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