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Residents near Fort Wayne’s Lakeside Park plan to ask Fort Wayne Parks department board to approve ice skating on the park’s pond

Some residents of the Lakeside Park area would like to seek the park's pond opened again during the winter for ice skating and pick-up hockey games. They will make their case Thursday during a meeting of the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department's board of park commissioners. (News-Sentinel.com file photo)
Molly Papier organized the group Friends of Lakeside Park Pond Skating to work for having ice skating allowed again on the main pond at Lakeside Park in northeast Fort Wayne. (Courtesy photo)

Molly Papier and her mother both grew up ice skating on the main pond at Lakeside Park. Papier wants her children and others to have the opportunity to enjoy that same experience.

So Papier organized the group Friends of Lakeside Park Pond Skating to promote bringing back ice skating on the pond.

She plans to make her case for that cause during a presentation to the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department’s board of park commissioners at the board’s meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday at Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, 1100 S. Calhoun St.

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

When that happened, a number of residents in the Lakeside Park area organized in hopes of persuading the parks department to offer pond skating again at the park, but they never had the chance to talk with parks Director Al Moll, Papier said.

Papier took up the issue again this fall after she and her two children moved into the Lakeside Park area after having lived the past six years in Madison, Wis.

Her son plays hockey, and her daughter enjoys ice skating, she said. But she and other neighborhood moms agreed the temporary ice rink in the park isn’t big enough to accommodate parents with young children learning to skate and older kids trying to play hockey.

There was plenty of room for both when the pond was open for skating, she said.

So Papier went door-to-door to more than 50 households around the park to gauge their interest in pond skating at Lakeside Park and to ask for volunteers to help with it. Residents overwhelmingly viewed pond skating at the park as a valuable neighborhood asset, and more than half of them offered to help as volunteers, she said.

“The neat thing is people really feel strongly about this,” she said.

Papier has met with Moll, who she said told her the parks department discontinued pond skating because interest in it seemed to have waned and because of concerns about liability from people falling through the ice or suffering injury.

To address those concerns, Papier is considering proposing the following to the park board in hopes of receiving their approval:

• Open the Lakeside Park 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.

Average high temperatures make January the month most likely to produce weather suitable for freezing the pond enough for ice skating, Papier said.

If warm weather prevents ice skating during the planned Jan. 12-21 period, the skating possibly could be shifted forward a week or back a week to make use of colder weather.

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, then pond skating would have to be shelved for that winter, she said.

She also believes 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.

With the popularity of hockey in Fort Wayne, Papier said pond skating at Lakeside Park also would allow children to try playing hockey without the costs of buying a lot of equipment and paying for ice time at an indoor rink.

If pond skating works at Lakeside Park, she said it could be expanded to another location or locations, such as Reservoir Park.

PARK BOARD MEETING

WHAT: The Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department’s board of park commissioners will hold their December meeting.

WHEN: 4 p.m. Thursday

WHERE: Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, 1100 S. Calhoun St.

NOTE: Click on this link for a copy of the meeting’s tentative agenda: http://www.fortwayneparks.org/customapps/parksboard/documents/download/2017-12-14/12_14_17_Tentative_Agendas.pdf.

Scroll down past the Executive Session agenda to the regular meeting agenda.

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