The Ice People Cometh
November 16, 2009 9:05 AM
I had at least one clunker of an idea in my 2010 budget proposal. To save some money I proposed turning over a few of the city's ice rinks to neighborhood groups. The idea was roundly criticized and quickly dispatched from my budget by the City Council. But now it seems the concept will get some traction this winter after all, even if it won't save much money.
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.
And if good ice wasn't enough benefit, all that teamwork and coordination should help bring neighbors together and strengthen our community a little bit.
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.
If you're interested in being a human Zamboni, you can get more information at www.cityofmadison.com/parks/. A public meeting for people interested in volunteering will be held this Tuesday evening at 6:30p.m. at the Warner Park Community Center.