Back in Time: Romantic Skating at Cedarena in Markham, Ontario

cedarena skating rink, cedar grove, markham, ontario

It is with fond memories that Bob and I recall skating on the woodland skating rink called Cedarena.  Nestled into a valley along Little Rouge Creek in what is now Rouge National Urban Park, this skating rink provided the most whimsical experience when visited on a Tuesday evening.

cedarena skating rink, cedar grove, markham, ontario

Tuesday evenings were set aside for adults only.  Of course, regular skating hours for families and even times available for local kids’ hockey teams were also made available other days of the week.

jean and bob at cedarena, winter 2004, cedar grove, markham

Bob and I did not learn of this quaint creek-side skating rink until the late 1990s, but it soon became our favorite venue for a romantic evening skate.

cedarena skating rink, february 2022, cedar grove, markham, ontario

Cedarena sits on land now owned by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, but it was the Cedar Grove Community Club that built the wooden clubhouse in the 1950s on land owned by Arthur Lapp.  Volunteers operated the rink and concession stand within.

cedarena pump house, cedar grove, markham, ontario

In bygone days, it was a group of about 24 dedicated volunteers who took time out of their busy schedules to help set up the rink and get it ready for skaters.  Originally workers from the local mills, and later mostly farmers from the local community, offered some of their free time to prep the rink for skating.

cedarena's pump house along little rouge creek, 2022, cedar grove, markham, ontario

Making of the natural ice was accomplished by running hoses from the pump house to draw water from Little Rouge Creek.  If the river froze over, holes were chopped to access the water.

cedarena skating rink's roadside sign, cedar grove, markham, ontario

Driving out into the country from our home in northeast Toronto soon put us in a rural atmosphere where few farmhouse lights sparkled across fields cloaked in darkness.  A beacon of fun times ahead was a humble sign at roadside made from 2 sturdy cedar posts with a board secured between them.  A string of fairy lights added an air of whimsy.  We joined dozens of other cars in a make-shift parking lot that was achieved by pushing back snow to make a clearing in a farm field.

cedarena entrance, 2003, cedar grove, markham, ontario

The mood was set as soon as we launched from the car.  At the edge of the adjacent woods, a rustic wooden archway beckoned us to step into the past.  Often, a starry sky set the stage for the evening’s entertainment, and it was extra-special if we were blessed with a full moon.

woodland trail to cedarena skating rink, 2022, cedar grove, markham, ontario

Crossing the threshold into the dark shadows of the forest was like traveling back in time to another era.  Our boots crunched on the well-packed snow covering the steep winding path down into the ravine, and already the strains of old-time music would be heard floating on the air.

cedarena skating rink at night, 2003, cedar grove, markham, ontario

Slowly, as we neared the quaint clubhouse, a circle of light grew to include the entrance way and the skating rink.  Reminding us of summer bonfires, aromatic smoke from the wood stove inside assured us of a warm place to put on our skates.

cedarena clubhouse, 76th birthday, 2003, cedar grove, markham, ontario

Colourful Christmas lights twinkled around the eave of the building, and golden light spilled from the small window next to the door.

poster for valentine's skating party 2007, cedarena, cedar grove, markham, ontario

Tuesday evenings skating at Cedarena were always romantic.  Bob and I tried to make it a regular outing when conditions were right.  Often, because of warm weather, the rink would be temporarily closed.

valentine's skating party 2007, cedarena, cedar grove, markham, ontario

Not to be missed was the annual Valentine’s Skating Party.

joyce lapp, valentine's skating party 2007, cedarena, cedar grove, markham, ontario

Every time we visited Cedarena, Joyce Lapp greeted us with a smile at the ticket booth.  Married to a descendent of the original man who donated the land, it was Joyce’s responsibility to collect $5.00 from every adult and $2.00 from everyone younger than 15.

Guests dutifully recorded their names and how many people were in their party.  The rink could accommodate as many as 400 people at one time.

In honour of the occasion, flowers were often given to the ladies.

Everyone was in a happy, playful mood.

Cedar Grove Community Club ensured that the Valentine’s skate was extra-special.

inside the clubhouse, cedarena 2003, cedar grove, markham, ontario

Warmth from the wood stove enveloped the guests as they prepared to lace up their skates.  We always tried to nab the little alcove opposite the wood stove where one time, Austin Reesor used to sit and spin the old-time 78 vinyl records to provide music for the skaters.

clubhouse interior, valentine's party 2003, cedarena, cedar grove, markham, ontario

Original wooden benches stretched from wall to wall around the inside of the clubhouse with extra benches running down the middle of the room.  Gone are the days when the chalet was divided with one side for the women, the other for the men with two wood stoves used to heat the space.

rinkside porch of the cedarena clubhouse, valentine's 2004, cedar grove, markham, ontario

From the outside deck of the clubhouse, two wooden steps made it easy to access the ice.  Bob and I were always eager to get whirling around the rink for that is when the magic began.  Music from the 1940s to the crooners of the 1960s stirred nostalgic sentiments and set the pace for laps around the ice.

Like scores of skaters before us, Bob and I were buoyed by nostalgic tunes such as The Tennessee Waltz (1947); Doris Day’s 1956 hit Que Sera Sera; and Perry Como’s Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity…Boom) from 1956.  One of our favorites was Edelweiss that had us matching our strides to the beat.  It was also fun to sing along to Patti Page’s tune How Much is That Doggie in the Window (1952), or Ned Millers’ From a Jack to a King.

skaters at cedarena, january 2015, cedar grove, markham, ontario

Periodically, the music was interrupted for an announcement about the upcoming spot prize skate.  What fun it was trying to guess where the next winning spot on the rink would be when the music suddenly stopped.  An elimination round was also held to determine the oldest skater who then was awarded a prize.  Near the end of the evening, a winning ticket was drawn for a 50-50 draw.  (Photo courtesy of Averill Maroun)

jean and friends, cedarena, valentine's skating party 2007, cedar grove, markham, ontario

Every so often, a rest was required, and what better place to park it than on the porch of the clubhouse.  Perched on the wooden benches, we could observe the ebb and flow of other skaters and perhaps nibble on some treats from the concession stand.

jean and friends, cedarena, valentine's skating party 2007, cedar grove, markham, ontario

If the cold air didn’t have our breath swirling around us in a fog,

bob and friends, cedarena, valentine's skating party 2007, cedar grove, markham, ontario

it certainly turned our noses as red as cherries.

cedarena birthday party, 2015, cedar grove, markham, ontario

The evening’s festivities culminated in the generous provision of an assortment of donuts, and hot chocolate was dished out to everyone present.  (Photo courtesy of Averill Maroun)

cedarena valentine's party 2011, cedar grove, markham, ontario

As everyone gathered to have a snack, conversation flowed until finally all the skaters started to leave for the night.

cedarena valentine's party 2011, cedar grove, markham, ontario

Numbers on the ice dwindled, and by 10 p.m., Cedarena would close for the night.  Of all the ways that Bob and I have celebrated Valentine’s, our times spent skating on the ice at Cedarena ranked as some of the best.  It’s sheer existence is like a time capsule that holds charming memories for so many people.


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