Second chance for Thornwood ice
Wilmette Monday 11.26.12. Wilmette Park District employees Mark Dumelle (left) and Ernie Josellis (right) build temporary ice rink at Thornwood Park on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012, at the park in Wilmette. Both park district officials and neighbors who original
ICE AND WEATHER
WHAT: Temporary outdoor ice rink
WHERE: Thornwood Park
Updated: January 7, 2013 6:43AM
WILMETTE — Take Two for Thornwood Park skating started last week, when Wilmette Park District workers put up end boards for a temporary winter ice rink. If all goes well, the rink could materialize sometime early next year.
Old Man Winter may still be the final arbiter of whether park district officials and area residents can judge the success or shortcomings of a rink at the north Wilmette park. Without his cooperation, the district can’t assess the rink’s popularity with casual skaters and pick-up hockey game fans – and residents can’t decide if the rink is as disruptive as many once feared it would be.
Unless temperatures drop enough to put 6 to 8 inches of frost into the ground, the rink can’t be laid, park district operations Supervisor Bill Lambrecht said Monday. Without that chilly cushion, water won’t freeze on the rink’s surface, he said.
“Two years ago, we had probably the longest skating season in memory, because it started before the Christmas break,” Lambrecht said. “Typically, though, it’s not until the first of the year.”
The district faced furious opposition to outdoor skating at Thornwood in 2011. Residents of the neighborhood argued that the rink would change the quiet area, despite its temporary nature (the season was envisioned as running only from mid-December to mid-March.)
Neighbors opposed temporary light poles for the rink, saying they would shine into their homes; they also worried about increased auto traffic on their narrow streets, and about potential drainage or flooding problems at the park.
Despite their concerns, the Park Board approved the rink, touting it as a healthy and attractive family entertainment option for hockey and recreational skating. The village approved zoning for the lights last December, which cleared the way for operation.
Last winter’s extremely warm weather meant none of the park district’s outside rinks – it also runs two others at Gillson and Mallinckrodt Parks – could operate. Without evidence from that proposed freshman season, a few Thornwood neighbors said they hadn’t changed their opinions.
“We don’t know because the weather didn’t cooperate,” Kenilworth Avenue resident Brad Reiff said Monday. “And it seems like another warm weather winter’s in the works, so we may not get a chance this year.
“But I still think that if they had really wanted to do this right, they should have tried it at West Park,” Reiff said, referring to the district’s consideration and subsequent rejection of West Park as an outdoor site. West Park had previously been an outdoor rink site; officials ended it in 2010 because they said not enough skaters used it.
Fellow Kenilworth Avenue resident Caryn Summer seconded Reiff’s West Park preference, saying “there’s no question it’s in the wrong place.”
However, Thorndale Avenue resident and one-time rink opponent Diane Schaffner said Monday she was adapting to the idea of a rink.
“I agree that I think West Park was a better location, but under the circumstances they’re proceeding as best they can,” she said, saying she approved of a sign the district put up for the unsupervised rink, laying out separate times for recreational skating and hockey, and setting rules for conduct and parking. That included recommendations that people park on Dartmouth Street, and avoid Thornwood itself for that, or for picking up or dropping off skaters.
“I’ve even picked up new skates … I really hope it turns out to be fun,” Schaffner said.
Earlier this month, Lambrecht reported Thornwood’s proposed schedule to members of the board’s parks and recreation committee.
The schedule includes recreational skating 8 a.m.-noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; noon-7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays; and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Pick up hockey is allowed noon-7:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 8 a.m.-noon on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m.-9 p.m. on the weekends.