‘Vigilante rink’ on west Ottawa baseball diamond shut down ~ www.cbc.ca

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‘Vigilante rink’ on west Ottawa baseball diamond shut down

Councillor denies encouraging flooding of west Ottawa baseball field against city’s wishes

Joan Clark, the president of the City View Community Association, received an order from the City of Ottawa to stop flooding the baseball field. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

A hockey fight of a different sort is playing out in Ottawa’s west end.

The City of Ottawa cut off a community association’s water supply after it ignored an order to stop flooding a little league baseball diamond in Nepean.

Members of the City View Community Association told CBC News they were encouraged by their councillor to go ahead with the plan to build the outdoor rink without the city’s approval — but the councillor denies ever offering that advice.

Community association members said they spent three days and nights flooding the Doug Frobel Park baseball diamond with a fire hose — working as late as 3 a.m. — to create a hockey rink for neighbourhood kids.

‘Somehow the baseball people have the sole custody of this field, which is wrong.’- Joan Clark,  City View Community Association

When a warning to the community association didn’t work, the city cut off the association’s outdoor water supply and served the president a letter to “cease the construction and flooding” of the baseball field.

“I think it’s terrible,” the association’s president Joan Clark said. “Talk about [the] Grinch. The kids that were getting skates for Christmas and planned to come out aren’t going to be skating here.”

City View Community Association volunteers poured water on the outfield of the Doug Frobel Park baseball diamond to create a rink against the city’s wishes. (Ashley Burke/CBC News. )

For three years, the community association has been requesting a larger outdoor rink for the area’s 500 kids to enjoy outside. Right now, they are permitted to build smaller outdoor ice surface on top of an asphalt basketball court on the property.

But the association has argued the surface is too small and doesn’t meet the neighbourhood’s demand.

“It’s political,” Clark said. “Somehow the baseball people have the sole custody of this field, which is wrong. We’re taxpayers and it’s a public park.”

‘High quality’ baseball diamond

The City of Ottawa said it told the group on several occasions not to flood the baseball diamond outfield because of an investment to develop it into a “fairly high quality” playing field for the East Nepean Little League.

The site, which has been used for 60 years as a baseball diamond, is named after Doug Frobel, a former Major League Baseball player born in Ottawa.

“We’re concerned, as are the baseball folks, that the compaction from the snow and the ice is going to kill the turf in the outfield,” said Dan Chenier, the general manager of the city’s parks, recreation and cultural Services.

“We’re not trying to be a Grinch…But going about it this way is not the way to work with us.”

Dan Chenier is Ottawa’s general manager of parks, recreation and cultural services. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

He added that the field needs to be in “good shape” when the little league season starts in May.

“We need good grass in that outfield,” he said.

Councillor denies encouraging flooding

Clark said Coun. Rick Chiarelli, who represents the neighbourhood, told six members of the group at a breakfast in the fall that they should just go ahead and flood the outfield without the city’s permission.

“He said, ‘Go ahead and flood the outfield, but only the outfield, leave the infield alone,'” Clark said.

“No I didn’t say that,” Chiarelli told CBC News. “I didn’t tell them to do it.”

‘Maybe they wanted it so badly they’re misinterpreting things they heard.’-  Coun. Rick Chiarelli

Chiarelli said he understands the group wants a larger rink, but added that plans are underway to redevelop the park with a bigger rink in the future.

The City of Ottawa locked the water supply near the baseball diamond to stop the community association from flooding the diamond. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

He said the group should have listened to city staff when ordered to stop flooding the field.

“You can’t just put a rink anywhere you want on city property. Maybe they wanted it so badly they’re misinterpreting things they heard,” he said. “I’m realizing I’m going to get a lot of teasing at council because here I am with my constituents putting up a vigilante rink in the middle of the night.”

Baseball league worried about damage

Resident Brian Inouye doesn’t understand what the big deal is. He had hoped to take his four-year-old daughter Nora to skate on the rink in the outfield.

“I think common sense has gone missing here,” Inouye said. “There’s an empty field and lots of kids and neighbours who want to put the rink together and do the work. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to get in the way of that.”

Resident Brian Inouye and his four-year-old daughter Nora had hoped to use an outdoor rink on the baseball diamond. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

But the city said the East Nepean Little League is concerned the baseball diamond it pays to use has been damaged by the flooding. The city hopes that the field hasn’t been ruined by the rink, which was stopped soon after the flooding began.

Chiarelli said the community association created the unapproved rink with a new $25,000 water tap, which was installed outside for a future splash pad, as well as to help to create the smaller, approved rink.

The city said it will turn the water back on if the association promises to only flood in the approved location.

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