Mayor Dave reiterated support for a plan to turn five of the city’s eight ice rinks over to neighborhood groups, who would maintain the rinks with volunteers.
Here’s a quick primer on the science of ice. Snow is not as cold as you think. As a matter of fact, when snow covers ice it acts as insulation, melting and fusing with the ice beneath it, making it rough and unskatable once the snow is finally removed. What works is shoveling the snow off soon after it falls. But that’s usually not possible because our hard-working Madison Parks crews are busy clearing bike paths and walkways for days after a storm. By the time they get to the rinks, the damage is done.
Enter the neighborhoods. If we can get volunteers with shovels out there a few hours after the snowfall ends, we can preserve the ice. And if we can get people out there to spray down the ice with water occasionally we’ll get even better conditions.
Fair enough Mayor Dave. But if volunteers would maintain the rinks better than city staff, why not just say that from the start?
I originally proposed this as a cost saving measure, but the reality is that most of our costs for rinks are in set-up and water, not in staffing once they’re up and running. What we’ll get is better skating conditions and maybe stronger neighborhoods and, to be honest, that’s worth more than the dollar savings anyway.
I don’t know much about the upkeep of ice rinks, however, I suspect that if there is a large enough constituency who consider them important, they’re going to want somebody to hold accountable if the rinks are subpar. Moreover, if the volunteers fail, and the rinks become worthless, than people will be upset that they’re paying taxes for a rink the city hasn’t bothered to maintain. The mayor suggests that this is already often the case, but at least the city workers are trying, and not giving up.
But it should be an interesting test of community spirit. The city should at least try it on one of the rinks.