By Sara Tischauser
While not all may enjoy the cold weather, winter does bring with it more outdoor activities for people to enjoy. Those in the Seymour area will soon be able to enjoy more winter activities.
This year, the City of Seymour is working to make ice skating, hockey and other ice activities available to all at Seymour Lake Park. John Schoen, Seymour public works director, said they have been monitoring the ice thickness and clearing off a portion of the ice so it would be ready for anyone who wants to use it. Schoen said hopefully the ice will be open for use on Friday, Feb. 1 once the current storm clears out.
“The idea started last fall [to have ice rink at Seymour Lake Park], we had a couple of layouts on paper of areas that we thought would work nicely for winter activities,” said Schoen. “Communications were held with committee members as well as our insurance carrier (we are covered) to make sure we were all on the same page for the area. We would have proceeded sooner, however, we only had five to six inches of ice at that time. Since then we were in a holding pattern until that first cold snap in January as we didn’t want to put it in use until we had at least 10 inches of good ice.”
Using the lake for winter activities will be similar to swimming in the lake in warmer weather.
“It is being opened in similar fashion to the swimming lake, ‘skate at your own risk,’” said Schoen. “If it would be successful and positive, we will likely eliminate the rinks at Rock Ledge and Lions/Recknagel parks as they are really difficult to get started and maintain as the warm ground underneath those two rinks is always an issue and they were of minimal quality at best for that reason.”
The ice on the lake at Seymour Lake Park will be split into different use areas for anyone who wants to use the ice for outdoor winter activities. These areas Schoen said include regular/casual skating, hockey area and a general ice area. The regular/casual skating area will be closest to the beach area, the general ice area will be towards the back of the lake. The hockey area will have sidelines and goals for those wanting to play hockey. The general ice area is meant for general play or fishing and will not be cleared of snow.
“The regular/casual skating area is approximately 250 feet long and 100 feet wide, much larger than our two previous rinks combined by far,” Schoen said. “The hockey area is probably 100 feet long and 75 feet wide, should be plenty of space for a nice game of hockey, the remaining lake area makes up the last area. We also had a nice snow hill made from clearing the lake snow that I am sure will also be used for play activities.”
Having a separate place for people to play hockey was something Schoen thought was important. He said he had noticed in past that it is hard to play hockey in same area where other people are trying to casual skate. So that is why they made a separate hockey area at Seymour Lake Park.
Schoen said they have tried to find ways to prepare the area to accommodate anyone wishing to use the ice.
“We moved a few picnic tables to the lake’s edge area, similar to what we did with the sledding hill so people can put their skates on there or to use to sit and watch,” Schoen said. “A portable toilet is coming, probably after the storm now. These things are all flexible [and] we can add more as we get feedback from the users.”
Throughout the winter, Schoen said they will continue to keep an eye on the ice and area and work to keep the ice cleared. Also, the ice will continue to be monitored to make sure it is at a safe thickness for people to be on the ice.
“As for maintenance to keep it going, it will be fairly minimal, daily general checks of the area for any issues or problems,” Schoen said. “If the ice surface would get really chewed up, we would pump fresh lake water on top during really cold spells to try to make it smooth again.”
Currently, lighting could be an issue but Schoen said they will wait and see how things go.
“There isn’t any lighting currently for the facility so hours of use may be dependent on that, however all of our parks technically close at 11 p.m.,” said Schoen. “We did clear a road and parking area just outside the footbridge for a little better access, especially if bringing younger ones. Lighting is one of those things that we will evaluate and determine feasibility for future use. In that regard, if people would feel comfortable skating with the current light levels, we wouldn’t have a problem with them skating after sunset as long as it doesn’t lead to other problems.”
The hope is that this ice rink will provide enjoyment for years to come. Schoen said while they don’t expect to have any problems with the area, if any vandalism is done he said it is likely the rink would be shut down. However, he said the hope is that everything will go smoothly and this will be something people can enjoy in the years to come.
“I just hope everyone realizes what a great opportunity we have and can hopefully build upon it in future years so it can be enjoyed by many for years to come,” Schoen said.
For those using the ice rink the city recommends everyone use good safety practices.
“The city highly recommends the use of helmets and safety equipment when possible and to always be dressed weather appropriately,” said Lori Froehlich, City of Seymour administrative assistant. “Wisconsin weather can be deceiving sometimes and people don’t dress warm enough.”