THUNDER BAY — When city officials contemplated operating the historic Chippewa Park carousel without a protective canopy, they knew there was some risk the newly-restored model horses would be damaged from exposure to the environment.
Unfortunately, that's exactly what's happened.
As a result, the carousel is being shut down for the season, a few weeks earlier than normal.
The city made the announcement Tuesday, after an inspection revealed levels of deterioration on some of the horses beyond what normal wear and tear would produce.
"A great deal of time and effort has gone into restoring the carousel horses," said Cory Halvorsen, manager of Parks & Open Spaces. "We regret having to close the ride for the remainder of the 2022 season, but want to prevent further deterioration caused by accelerated environmental impacts."
The canopy of the 107-year-old amusement ride is still being restored, and isn't available for installation yet.
Halvorsen explained that the horses are designed to withstand outdoor conditions, so after careful evaluation the initial decision to operate the ride without protection overhead was made on the condition that it be monitored carefully for damage.
He said the city consulted at the time with the specialist and the contractor involved in the restoration, and it was deemed reasonable to open the ride without the canopy.
But officials had always planned to shut down the carousel if they observed that the absence of the canopy was causing unacceptable deterioration.
Halvorsen noted that even with a canopy, it would be exposed to air, direct sunlight and rain around the perimeter.
"We get that every year," he said, but added "It's not a museum piece. It's something that's intended to be used, and it was well-used this year."
The ride is expected to reopen in 2023.
It's not clear yet whether the carousel will be protected by the kind of canopy it used to have.
Planning continues for an addition to the Chippewa Park pavilion which would house the ride.
Halvorsen said that opens the road for a lighter-duty canopy more suitable for indoors.
"We will be ready with some type of canopy protection, for sure," he said.
Donna Gilhooly, co-chair of the Carousel Restoration Committee, said the group is happy to see the carousel taken out of service for the balance of the year.
"We've been working on making the decision over the last four days. We've been monitoring the ride since we put it up in the spring....We were very concerned whether the elements would affect the restoration, and very recently the sun had begun to do damage," she said.
Gilhoolly added that she doesn't believe it was a mistake to operate the ride this year, because it gave many people a chance to see the results of the restoration.
"It was the right thing to do. Lots of kids rode on it. I think it fired people up for what's to come and the rest of the restoration."
The other amusement rides at Chippewa Park will continue to operate through the Labour Day weekend.