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Despite unseasonable warmth, Winnipeg's river trail is now open

Wednesday, January 13th 2021, 4:40 pm - Trail currently extends 5 km along Assiniboine River, but could expand in coming weeks if weather permits

Skaters rejoiced as an ice resurfacer cut the red ribbon to officially open the river skating trail in Winnipeg Tuesday.

People started skating on the river at The Forks around New Year's Eve, but the trail — which is formally called the Centennial River Trail, in honour of the Winnipeg Foundation's 100th anniversary this year — had its official grand opening Tuesday. Paul Jordan, CEO of The Forks, says the trail will continue to grow as colder weather permits.

The river trail didn't open at all last winter because of frazil ice — a slushie-like mixture of crystals that can quickly grow as they cling to other objects in the water such as logs, branches and larger blocks of ice.

This year, the challenge was unseasonably warm temperatures, said Jordan.

Jan10-15

"It never got cold," he said. "It's really hard to make ice when water doesn't freeze. But we were able to get it in," he said.

"It has been a challenging year, but cold weather is here next week. We're going to expand the trail and all that kind of stuff, so there's lots more coming."

Currently, the trail — which includes a path for skating and another for walking, running or biking — stretches about five kilometres on the Assiniboine River, from The Forks to the Hugo Street docks, said Jordan, with access points at The Forks, Donald Street and the Hugo docks. Current trail conditions can be found online.

How much further it will grow depends on the weather, but if possible, the trail will expand to the Red River as well, Jordan said.

CBC: The Centennial River Trail, as it is formally known, officially opened Tuesday. The trail so far only runs along the Assiniboine River, but a spokesperson from The Forks says it could expand to the Red River as early as next week, weather permitting. (Gilbert Rowan/CBC) The Centennial River Trail, as it is formally known, officially opened Tuesday. The trail so far only runs along the Assiniboine River, but a spokesperson from The Forks says it could expand to the Red River as early as next week, weather permitting. (Gilbert Rowan/CBC)

The trail's length and size should help people spread out to respect physical distancing, but Jordan says skaters have to hold themselves accountable to those restrictions.

Avid skater James Torrance was glad to see the river trail open up again, especially since it allows the public to get outside during the pandemic.

"I'm here pretty well every morning," he said. "I've been through 30-belows in the years. I've been through one or two degrees.… But as long as you bundle up, you can go anytime you want, basically."

Torrance said he tries to get out to The Forks year-round.

"I just like the skating. I like the activity. I love The Forks — it is my favourite location, whether it's cycling in the summer or skating in the winter."

Nancy Frost and Glenna Erickson both visited The Forks for Tuesday morning's opening ceremony. They were also both happy to see the trail back for people to enjoy.

"You can just got out and walk for miles, or you can skate or you can ski. You can do any of those things so it appeals to all populations," said Erickson. "It's really great. I really appreciate it."

This article was originally published for CBC News. Contains files from Peggy Lam.

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