By Michael Czobit
Lake Devo’s concrete shores will soon be accessible, but students will have to take their skates elsewhere.
The eight-foot fence surrounding Ryerson’s man-made pond at the corner of Victoria and Gould streets is set to fall when the new Continuing Education building opens Dec. 1, said Ian Hamilton, Ryerson’s Director of Campus Planning and Facilities.
However, the water will not be frozen for skating this winter because of ongoing construction nearby, said Bruce Sudds, a communications officer for the City of Toronto. “We’d love to have a rink there,” Sudds said. “There’s always next year.”
Lake Devo, which is beside the new Continuing Education building (which will be called Heaslip House), was closed when construction began in October 2004. Ryerson President Sheldon Levy said he was disappointed that Devo will not be welcoming skaters this year. “We’re going to find out if we can change that,” he said. “I want to skate on it. We want families to skate on Lake Devo and get free hot chocolate during Christmas so they can enjoy Ryerson.”
Because of the closure, the Ryerson landmark is a mystery to some newer students. When the fence does come down, students and faculty are welcome to return to the once-popular hang-out. Kayla Wilson, a second-year radio and television arts student, said she remembers Devo being used by skateboarders before it was closed last year. She remembers skating on Devo as a child with her parents. Although she doesn’t plan to carry skates during the commute to school from Barrie, she said she’d like to see the rink being used again. “I was actually kind of mad about it (closing),” Wilson said. “It’s kind of cool.”
Formally called Devonian Square, Lake Devo was part of Ryerson’s community landscape project launched in October 1977 and completed a year later. The Devonian Group of Charitable Foundations donated $1.4 million toward the $2.95 million project.
The City of Toronto also donated $278,000 to the project with the intention of maintaining and operateing the rink, which used to be a parking lot. The rink included 1,500 tons of Muskoka granite until two boulders were removed from it during the construction of Heaslip House. When the rink first opened, there was fear that the rocks could shift and cause Devo’s ammonia pipes to burst. Lake Devo became very popular among ice skaters and was one of the city’s most popular rinks in 1980. But by 1986, the lake’s popularity had dried up for skaters and the rink closed earlier than it had in previous skating seasons.
When Devo was closed for repairs to the rink in 1997, there was an approximate 70 per cent drop in crime-related incidents on campus. Ryerson Security and Safety Manager Lawrence Robinson said although Lake Devo has been a popular spot for criminal activities in the past, he hopes that will change when it becomes accessible again this year. “We did quite a bit of work to improve (the crime-prone area of Lake Devo) and we’re hoping to see that kind of activity decline,” he said. “There will be a lot more natural surveillance from the new building.” A surveillance camera will be set up to monitor activity on and around Lake Devo.
“If there are any issues with regards to security we would have to put in the resources to keep (Lake Devo) secure,” Levy said. “I would not choose closing it because too many people enjoy it.”