Fort Wayne parks department will announce Lakeside Park pond skating decision at Feb. 8 meeting

The local group Friends of Lakeside Park Pond Skating has asked the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department to allow skating on the park's main pond Jan. 12-21, but the parks department doesn't plan to announce its decision until the Feb. 8 board of park commissioners meeting. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
Signs posted on a pole beside the parking lot at Lakeside Park notify people they can't ice skate, swim or boat on the pond. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
The red flag and red light at the top of the pole beside Lakeside Park's main pond indicate people aren't supposed to go on the ice on the pond. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

The Friends of Lakeside Park Pond Skating group hoped to be skating on the park’s main pond Jan. 12-21, but they will have to wait until Feb. 8 for the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department to announce a decision on that proposal.

“We told the group at the December (board of park commissioners) meeting that we would get back to them if we decided to change or make an exception to our existing policy, which is working,” parks Director Al Moll said via email in response to questions from News-Sentinel.com.

“In the coming weeks, as we assess the safety of such a change of policy, we’ll discuss our thoughts with the park board so that they have time to offer their thoughts as well,” Moll said. “By the February meeting, we plan to have analyzed everything and will be ready to announce our decision.”

Molly Papier, who is leading the efforts by Friends of Lakeside Park Pond Skating, said Friday she hopes to speed up the parks department’s decision process by speaking with Mayor Tom Henry during a Mayor’s Night In event Monday.

Papier attended the park board’s Dec. 14 meeting to ask that the parks department allow skating on Lakeside Park’s main pond from Jan. 12-21, which she said typically includes the coldest portion of the local winter.

Papier and other neighborhood residents grew up skating on the pond and would like to see that opportunity restored, she said in December.

The parks department had tested and maintained the ice on the Lakeside Park pond for skating for years, but it stopped doing so about three years ago. The parks department instead has set up a temporary ice rink each winter on the park’s basketball court.

Along with allowing pond skating Jan. 12-21, the Friends of Lakeside Park Pond Skating group also proposed:

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

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

• Volunteers from 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 for any injury.

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

For the time being, the parks department plans to keep the existing signs at the Lakeside Park parking lot, Moll said. The signs notify people there is no skating, swimming or boating on the main pond and that they should stay off ice on the pond if the pole near the pond is flying a red flag or has its red light on.

“It is also important to note that, when we set the policy for skating on the pond, we will take into consideration the safety of the entire community or the entire user base, not just the safety of the Friends of Lakeside Park Pond Skating group,” Moll said.

Papier is trying to remain optimistic about the chances of skating again on the Lakeside Park pond.

PARK BOARD MEETING

WHAT: The Fort Wayne board of park commissioners will hold their next public meeting in February.

WHEN: 10 a.m. Feb. 8

WHERE: Room 30, Citizens Square, 200 E. Berry St.

COMMENTS