Why I think we should Save the Oval

If you’re from Halifax, you’d have to be living under a rock to have missed the hoopla surrounding the speed skating oval. Originally built as a temporary structure on the Halifax Common, the Oval is scheduled to be dismantled in a few short weeks. (For my readers who are not from the province, or do live under rocks, please check out savetheoval.ca.)

The Oval was built for the Canada Games, being hosted in Halifax next month. It opened in December for free public skating, and thousands have turned out. The Oval hold approximately 500 people at once, and I’ve yet to hear of anyone going for a skate when it wasn’t at or near capacity.

On January 4th, a group of HRM citizens started an online petition to make the Oval permanent. More than 1,200 people signed in the first day, and to date it has collected more than 9,000 signatures.

Now, I will admit, I didn’t sign right away. I wasn’t against the idea as much as I just wasn’t 100% sure I was for the idea.

I worked for years at an environmental non-profit group. I have volunteered extensively for environmental, social justice, theatre and music organizations, among others. I have worked and made friends with a lot of people who are very passionate about their various causes. As a result, I get sent a lot of petitions. A LOT. I quickly developed a personal policy of never signing anything that I couldn’t defend at the dinner table or successfully debate with a naysayer. (Well, OK – a logical naysayer. You can’t debate the other kind.)

When it came to the Oval, I had a lot of questions: is it the right use of the space? is there perhaps a better location? do we really have the money for this? will public use decline once the novelty wears off?

I don’t have answers to any of these. But neither does anyone else I seen/heard/read using these questions against a permanent skating oval. No, I don’t think the Oval project is perfect. Show me a project that is. Not perfect does not mean not worthwhile.

Maybe there is a better place – but the Oval is where it is; moving it would be a huge expense and hassle. Yes money is tight – but I would much rather see Council spend a few hundred thousand on the Oval than many of the other projects they’ve been funding lately. While we’re talking money I should point out that the “Save the Oval” group is not only collecting signatures – they are collecting funds. Personal donations, foundation donations, and business sponsorship. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been pledged. People want this.

Earlier this month, Health Canada released a report that essentially said Canadians are so darn lazy that they are lowering the fitness standards so that more of us have a chance to reach them. How embarrassing is that? Yet here in Halifax we have a facility located in the heart of the city offering free outdoor recreation and exercise, being visited by hundreds of residents every day. I think that might be worth keeping.

People I know who have never used the Commons except to walk through, never used the ball fields or soccer field, never attended a concert on the grounds, have now been to the Commons multiple times just this month, to skate. They speak of the thrill of the exercise, of nostalgic references to skating outdoors as a child, of the sense of community, joining with hundreds of others to enjoy a community resource on a brisk winter afternoon. To me, that is worth saving. That is why I eventually signed the petition.

If you’d like more information, or want to sign and show your support, visit savetheoval.ca.

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4 thoughts on “Why I think we should Save the Oval

  1. Pingback: Local bloggers support the Oval

  2. I’m with you completely Natalie. There are plenty of arguments against it that make sense, but the fact is, it is good for us individually and as a community. I want it to stay.

  3. Natalie, this is the most practical argument I’ve heard for yet for saving the oval. I personally decided I was ‘for’ over the holidays when families and industrial lighting kept the commons busy and bright well into the night. This traffic led friends and I to actually walk through the commons at night (which we haven’t done in years considering the rate of violence in the public space). Despite the obvious health and community building benefits, the oval has even brought a practical step towards ensuring public safety on The Commons! It’s a win-win-win situation!

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