Group of families would like to maintain rink with their own equipment, but liability concerns make that impossible

    A group of youth hockey families, many of whom reside in or around Crookston’s northeast corner, are frustrated because, due to City liability regulations, it appears they aren’t going to be able to take the lead on an effort to put a large outdoor skating rink in their neighborhood next winter. While the group appreciates the City’s effort to put the rink in for them, they’re concerned that it won’t be properly maintained by the City once it’s poured and freezes.

    “If the City is going to do it, fine. But our concern is will the City do a good job at it,” Mike Enright said.

    Parks and Recreation Director Scott Riopelle, seconded by City Administrator Shannon Stassen, have said that every effort will be made to keep the rink, likely to be located in Alexander Park, clear of snow and otherwise properly maintained. But they also acknowledge that City crews have a lot of snow removal duties and related responsibilities during the winter, and keeping snow off an outdoor skating rink is likely going to get pushed down on the priority list, especially after major snow events.

    Enright says his group has secured an ice resurfacer and a tractor with a snowblower attachment to handle all of the necessary maintenance, but, again, because of liability rules, no private entity can perform such duties on City property, such as Alexander Park.

    “We keep hearing there’s no time (for the City) to maintain (outdoor skating rinks),” Enright said. (Riopelle) said it will be good enough. But that’s what concerns us…what’s ‘good enough?’”

    After a discussion at last week’s city council meeting, Enright, joined by a few other outdoor rink proponents, was advised to attend the next Park Board meeting to discuss the matter further. Although the Park Board already recommended council approval of the outdoor rink in Alexander Park, Ward 4 Council Member Don Cavalier said it’s apparent that further discussion for the purposes of clarity can’t hurt.
Dates back several months

    Representing the group of families, Enright first approached the council several months ago. Their initial goal, one they acknowledged was a bit lofty, was to have as many as three outdoor rinks located in various parks. But as talks continued, they honed in on one rink, which they hoped would be located in Evergreen Park because of its wide-open space which would easily accommodate the 90 by 200 foot sheet of ice, rink boards and warming house.

    But City officials shied away from Evergreen Park, citing the potential for massive snow drifts accumulating there and the lack of protection from the wind. Alexander Park then emerged as the next preferred choice, but it’s smaller, and Enright said he’s concerned about flying pucks hitting adjacent houses.

    Enright tells the Times that the group of families has formed a non-profit, Crookston Rink Rat Club. Although it’s set up, he said they have yet to seek any contributions, and until they reach a certain funding threshold it’s likely the non-profit won’t be officially listed by the IRS.

    But even though their non-profit might be in its infancy, Enright says the group is organized and motivated. They have the ability to build their own rink boards if need be, they have the necessary equipment, they were working on a usage schedule and had lighting secured until 9 p.m.

    “People are really committed, everything was priced out and we were getting the ball rolling and now we’re stopped,” Enright said. “We’re looking for some clarity.”

    The clarity at this point, Stassen said, is that it’s his understanding, through the Park Board’s approval, that Alexander Park will have an outdoor rink next winter.