Saturday, January 26, 2019

The community of Cedar Grove used to be home to seven mills.  To power the mills Little Rouge Creek was dammed in three places to create mill ponds.  In the winter, these ponds made potentially dangerous hockey rinks for the young men in town.  A suitable place for a land-based rink was identified on property belonging to Arthur Lapp who agreed to allow the local men to put up a set of boards.


The rink opened on January 29, 1927, with a hockey game.  Ten days later the town held a carnival to promote the rink and from there it became a popular place to spend winter days and evenings.  Adults could skate on Tuesday evenings from 7:30 until 10:00 and everyone was welcome on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.  Sunday skating was held in the afternoons, from 1:00 until 4:00.


The clubhouse was built in the 1950’s and provided change rooms and washrooms.  Music was played for the skaters and the place always kept the nostalgic feeling with music from the 1940’s to the early 1960’s crooners.  Where Cedarena was once brightly lit at night, now the clubhouse has no bulbs left.  The lights still hang on overhead wires above the skating surface.


The Cedarena ice rink as seen from the deck of the clubhouse.


Ice was made using water pumped out of Little Rouge Creek.  Volunteers cut a hole in the ice when the creek was frozen.  In recent years there have been several problems with the ice due to warm spells that melt the ice causing the men to have to flood it again when the temperature drops.  In seasons where the road crews use a lot of salt, the creek can become very saline and the water won’t freeze properly to form the rink.  The pump house stands beside the creek, just outside of the windbreak.


Cedarena is one of the eeriest places we’ve visited because it is just like they packed up and never returned.  Nor did anyone else.  There is no graffiti, the buildings haven’t been broken into and there are no obvious signs of garbage thrown around.  The rakes that would be used to clear the leaves before the 2015 winter season still waiting for someone to come and make use of them.  Likewise, the brooms that kept the ice clean are collecting snow of their own.  Dog Strangling Vines have grown up the handles of the rakes and the push broom as the invaders start to take hold.  This place doesn’t deserve to be over-run or vandalized and so I’m not revealing the exact location other than to say it is private property.  Please respect it.


Gone are the days when the slap of hockey sticks on the ice preceded the smack of a frozen puck on the boards along the sides of the rink.  Naturally, some of these pucks would fly over the boards to be lost in the snow.  Someone has collected quite a few of them, perhaps in the summer of 2015, and left them along the outside edge so they could be used by future players.


Unfortunately, the rink is starting to show a need for repairs in at least one section of the northern wind fence.  The flooding and pumping systems are also in need of costly repairs and upgrades.  This highlights at least one of the issues that have led to the closure of the rink.  The land is owned by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority and the building is owned and operated by Cedar Grove Community Club.  The City of Markham is working with TRCA to try and bring Cedarena back into the control of the city.  At this point, no one wants to spend money on the rink because ownership is up in the air.


Meanwhile, trees and raspberries have taken over the space between the windscreen and the boards on the north side of the rink.  Goldenrod and other tall grasses are growing on the former skating surface.


Access from the parking lot was obtained by means of a short trail down the side of the ravine.


In 2008 Joyce Lapp was carrying on a family tradition having spent the previous 12 years collecting $5.00 from every adult and $2.00 from everyone 15 and under before letting them in.  It was common to see around 400 skaters on a nice day.  Once in the clubhouse benches were provided so you could put your skates on and a stove let you warm up after your skate.  Hot chocolate was for sale in the concession stand.


The entrance has been boarded over and the ticket window looks permanently closed.  The sign on the door says that Cedarena won’t be opening this season and that there were many factors involved in the decision.


Cedarena has been closed for the past four seasons with no hope for an opening any time soon.  There are no longer swarms of children buzzing around the ice surface, but from the looks of one of the old light sockets, the place is still a hive of activity.


Here’s hoping that one season soon Cedarena will once again be alive with the sounds of music playing and children laughing.

Here are the links to our two previous stories on Cedar Grove:

Cedar Grove – Ghost Towns of the GTA and Lapps Cider Mill

This is a link to a video shot at Cedarena.  https://vimeo.com/161690732

Google Maps Link: Cedar Grove

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta.com

19 thoughts on “Cedarena

    1. Brian Slack

      Lasting memories of the fire to warm my freezing feet at a house league hockey practice in the early sixties. Amazing

  1. Paul Orchard

    It was a fabulous place. Played hockey with Ron and Bob Dean , Brad Toms and many other local guys. Also had the extreme pleasure of knowing the ice guy Dave Ritchie. He was the greatest guy I ever met. And one of the reasons cedarena was as great as it was. This article was great to read. Markham. Get it together and get it open.

  2. Susan jackson

    So sad that this place is rotting !It is part of history,perhaps it will be restored it would be lovely spot.Hope someone takes up the call!

  3. Dave Ladouceur

    When I was young, I lived in the house on the hill above the rink (between 1963 and 1965,) I could look out the window and see down to watch people skating at night and hear the music. It was an active community rink and cars would fill the parking area every weekend.. I would go into the clubhouse and play with my friends and skate during off hours and helped flood the rink at times. It was a genuine pleasure to see these posts about Cedar Grove as I have many fond remembrances of this place and the people I knew there.

  4. Pingback: Cedar Grove – Ghost Towns of the GTA | Hiking the GTA

  5. Julie Weeks-Pernerowski

    Been going there since I could walk. My dad used to run hockey practice there and the rink was so big for the kids we were able to skate at the other end and not bother them. It was a great weekly event. I started my kids when the were little also. So sad when it closed.

  6. Norbert Ricafort

    They paved paradise, put up a parking lot. Sadly unique incredible places like these are all but a memory now. I live not too far from the rink, it was a magical place, being able to enjoy our winter wonderland and skating in the middle of the woods.

  7. Ken Layton

    Growing up in BOX GROVE, we played hockey on ponds, and on a cold clear night you could hear the music from there a mile away. Skating down the river you would go back in time once you arrived, and saw all the olde timers mainly from cedar grove with the long speedskates. During the winter when the olde Markham arena was over booked we would have practices and even league games there. We usually won because the other teams were not used to the big, snowy rink. Will cherish the memories and all the volunteers that made them!

  8. Diancoylel@sympatico,ca

    We took our kids there, as someone said it sure was magical – especially at night with the coloured lights and the old music. Then there was the hot chocolate in the clubhouse. My old neighbour Murray Millroy, helped build the rink and the shed many years ago. Nice memories.

  9. Jeff Hazlehurst

    It was a beautiful place. I enjoyed skating there many times when I was young. I remember helping to clear the ice with shovels (no zamboni). Many fond memories. Such a shame to see it as it is now. It would be great if it could be fixed up, and put back in operation again.

  10. Pingback: The Reesors – Pioneers of the GTA | Hiking the GTA

  11. Abby Armstrong

    Wonderful story. Have we forgot how to make our own fun. Giving to something that makes a community and is practical and healthy. Can it still happen?

  12. Pingback: Back Tracks – 8 Years of Trails | Hiking the GTA

  13. Pingback: Markham Museum | Hiking the GTA

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s