Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Expanding winter use of public park and playgrounds: ice rinks?

Besides the animus towards yoga in a public park in Echo Park, Los Angeles, mentioned yesterday, something else to think about it terms of DIY and better use of space in public parks and recreation centers, would be "what about building neighborhood ice rinks in park space across the city?," depending on the interest and demand in specific neighborhoods. 

This is inspired by the mention that the Columbia Heights public plaza was supposed to be outfitted for ice skating when it was first designed--although the space seems small to me and it would be hard to accommodate a rink there.

Instead, why not do it in park space or school playgrounds not typically used in the winter?

Right:  the "Joyce Rink" in Seabrook, NH, courtesy of Shane (submitted to

I'm sure there are all kinds of liability and other issues, but those should be addressable.

Anyway, this Boston Globe story, "Build your own backyard ice rink: Boston dad-approved tips," is more about backyard ice rinks, but covers the same ground.  It can be done for a few hundred dollars and some extra money each month for water.

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At 7:26 AM, Anonymous Alex B. said...

"It can be done for a few hundred dollars and some extra money each month for water."

Not in DC, it can't. Not unless you want a backyard mud pit.

Some places can rely on Mother Nature to freeze their outdoor rinks for them, but not DC.

At 7:33 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Yes, I was going to say the same thing.

You could probably put chillers in and turn the canal in Georgetown into a ice canal for the winter. Now that would be interesting....

At 10:05 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

good points. I guess in the back of my mind I was thinking that the "polar" freeze might become a more regular appearance in the weather patterns here.

In any case, this is something that could be considered in colder climes...

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt canals in the winter, Ottawa does a lot with that.

At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Alex B. said...

"good points. I guess in the back of my mind I was thinking that the "polar" freeze might become a more regular appearance in the weather patterns here."

Maybe it will, but that still won't help you with your ice rink - where you need consistently below-freezing temps to sustain ice, not just a few cold snaps.

I grew up in Minneapolis, where they flood the fields in many neighborhood parks for ice rinks. The cold weather folks know how to do this just fine. And even there, a slightly warmer than average winter causes problems. There is zero chance you could do it in DC without artificial refrigeration.

At 10:22 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

well, what's interesting isn't the freezing, but the use of public space and "self-help" traditions.

Granted Minnesota is more north than the Detroit Metropolitan Area so it would be more consistently cold--growing up, it became rare to have much snow before January 1st.

Still we didn't have such a tradition of doing this in public parks in Michigan, at least I wasn't aware of it.

At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Alex B. said...

The average high in January in Detroit is 32 degrees. That's the only month at or below freezing.

In Minneapolis, the average high temp in December, January, and February is below freezing. That's what enables them to freeze playging fields as ice rinks.

The Minneapolis Park and Rec Board operates 20+ rinks at local parks. A few are on local lakes, but most are from flooded playing fields:

The ice surface can be substantial, too - they'll set up a couple of full-fledged hockey rinks with plywood boards and chickenwire 'glass,' as well as a large general skating area. They run warming houses for people to change their skates, and since the playing fields are often lit up, they can offer night skating.

But the climate matters. And it might not seem like it in the dog days of winter, but the climate in Minnesota is significantly colder than Greater Detroit, and right around the key 32 degree mark. If you have too many daytime highs above freezing, you can kiss your naturally-frozen rink goodbye.

(Side note - it's not because Minneapolis is further north, but because Minneapolis is further away from the Great Lakes and their warming tendencies. Madison, WI offers lots of outdoor skating activities, and it's about the same latitude as Detroit -

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I guess the lake effect especially on Michigan's west coast is more about snow, and less about colder temperatures.

... but anecdotally, it sure seems that Chicago is much colder in winter than Detroit, and its on Lake Michigan.

At 12:28 PM, Anonymous Alex B. said...

There's no need for anecdotes, we have lots of weather data.

Chicago's avg January high is 31.5 degrees, similar to Detroit's 32 degrees. Like Detroit, the avg highs for both December (35.3) and February (35.8) are above freezing.

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wow, for me it must be like my trips to Seattle and Portland. It seems every time I go, the weather is beautiful, it never rains... and in the winter I always go to Chicago when it is very cold.


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