Fort Wayne Parks board will ‘look into’ residents’ request to allow pond ice skating at Lakeside Park

Molly Papier, standing in frtont at right, holds a laptop to the microphone to provide audio for a video recording of a longtime Fort Wayne resident Marney Shaffer speaking about her memories of skating at the Lakeside Park pond. Papier, representing the group Friends of Lakeside Park Pond Skating, showed the video and made a proposal to bring back ice skating on the Lakeside Park pond during a meeting Thursday of the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department's board of park commissioners. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

Molly Papier, standing in frtont at right, holds a laptop to the microphone to provide audio for a video recording of a longtime Fort Wayne resident Marney Shaffer speaking about her memories of skating at the Lakeside Park pond. Papier, representing the group Friends of Lakeside Park Pond Skating, showed the video and made a proposal to bring back ice skating on the Lakeside Park pond during a meeting Thursday of the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department's board of park commissioners. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

The Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department’s board of park commissioners listened Thursday to residents’ proposal for the parks department offer two weeks of ice skating next month on the main pond at Lakeside Park.

But park commissioners took no action on the request during their meeting at Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory.

“We do plan to look into it,” board President Richard Samek told Molly Papier of the group Friends of Lakeside Park Pond Skating, who made the group’s presentation to the park board.

Friends of Lakeside Park Pond Skating has proposed the following:

• Open Lakeside Park’s main pond to skating for two weeks, Jan. 12-21, 2018.

• Parks department staff would check the pond ice during that time period to ensure it is thick enough for safe skating.

• During the two-week period skating is allowed, signs would be posted saying people who ice skate on the pond are doing so at their own risk.

• Volunteers who are part of Friends of Lakeside Park Pond Skating would be onsite after school and in the evenings to ask skaters to sign a waiver absolving the parks department from liability.

• The volunteers also would shovel snow off the ice and monitor people’s behavior on the ice to prevent injuries.

Papier told park board members she has at least 41 people who have said they will volunteer to work at least one two-hour shift at the pond if it opens for skating.

She said the plan proposed by Friends of Lakeside Park Pond Skating is modeled after the Adopt-a-Rink program in Madison, Wis., which relies on volunteers to handle much of the maintenance of portable ice rinks set up around the city.

Her research also indicates local winters still are cold enough to support pond ice skating, especially in mid- to late January, Papier told the board.

Samek raised concerns about liability, saying the parks department’s main concern remains ensuring children are safe.

Papier suggested liability risks for pond skating at Lakeside Park are no greater than for people using the park’s department’s skate park at Lawton Park or its swimming pools at Northside, Memorial and McMillen parks.

There seemed to be some confusion, however, about who would assume the liability risk. Samek said the park board would have to investigate if an outside organization, such as Friends of Lakeside Park Pond Skating, could assume liability for people using parks property.

But Papier’s group isn’t seeking that responsibility. The friends group’s proposal counts on the parks department retaining liability coverage responsibility for ice skaters.

Chuck Reddinger, parks department deputy director of recreation, said his research shows the pond was open for skating for a total of only 13 days from 2008 through 2013, the last year the parks department provided skating on the pond.

Reddinger also said parks department staff and equipment have fallen through the ice in the past.

Park board members don’t plan to meet again until early February, which could complicate any effort, if approved, to have pond skating next month or this winter at Lakeside Park.

Still, Papier was optimistic.

“I think there is hope,” she said after her presentation.

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