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Winter fun heats up in New Richmond

New to the city is a leisure skating rink and warming house at South Knowles Avenue and County Road GG. Its close proximity to Starr Elementary made it a great place to play during Winter Wonderland Fun Day on Thursday.

With at least a month of cold, snowy weather left before spring, many people are feeling a touch of the winter blues.

Sometimes, getting outside is just what the doctor ordered.

The New Richmond Parks and Recreation Department flooded a new ice rink this year at South Knowles and County Road GG, right by Starr Elementary.

There's always been a rink on the north side of town, at North Third Street and Utah Avenue, but the department wanted to install another one with more visibility.

"We wanted it to be seen more, and more in the center of town," said Parks Director Joe Kerlin. They picked out this spot about two years ago but weren't able to act on it until this year.

With the blessing of the school district and a early brush of arctic air, the parks department set to flooding the new rink this December.

"It's been a great year for ice," said Kerlin. This is the first time in his 13 years with the department that he can remember having the rinks ready at least two weeks before Christmas, he said.

Getting the city's ice in top shape takes more than flat ground and a garden hose. When first prepping the rinks, Kerlin said crews pour water at about 2 a.m. They pour water in small amounts until a good base has frozen.

To do the flooding, they use the department's 1,000-gallon water tank truck. The truck is also used for watering things of the greener variety in the warmer months.

Even after the ice is thick enough for skaters to glide on it, the work is not done.

Almost every week day, a parks department employee gets up before the sun to reflood the Starr Elementary rink.

The other two rinks need less attention. The north side rink gets less use so it's only reflooded a couple times a week. The rink outside of the Sports Center is only started by the Parks Department. Once it's good to go, the New Richmond Youth Hockey Association maintains it with the Zamboni, Kerlin said.

Each reflooding of the Starr Elementary rink takes about 800 gallons of water, Kerlin said. The water truck makes passes up and down the rink until every inch is covered with new, fresh water. The water flows smoothly so crews don't need to even it out.

Starr's rink is unique in the city because of its warming house. The house is open from 4-9 p.m. on school days and 1-9 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

The shell of the warming house was purchased with money from the parks department budget, Kerlin said.

Turning that empty shell into a warm shelter at the rink took the effort of many people.

The parks department did the insulating. New Richmond Utilities hooked up the outdoor lights and ran power to the warming house. Brett Lingen, of Ruger Electric, donated his time and skills to install the electric work in the building.

"It heats pretty easily and stays warm," Kerlin said.

The non-permanent structure will remain in its current spot throughout the year, Kerlin said. In the warmer months, the school district will be allowed to use it during soccer games and practices.

This winter, the warming house has developed a collection of used skates from people leaving their unwanted ones, Kerlin said. No place in town rents skates to the public.

Those wishing to donate their skates can continue to leave them in the warming house, Kerlin said.

The Starr rink is only for leisure skating, Kerlin said. Playing hockey or other ice sports is too dangerous there because of others on the ice. Broomball and other low contact ice sports are welcome at the north rink. Hockey is allowed at the Sports Center rink, Kerlin said.

Until the temperatures rise too high to keep the ice smooth, Kerlin said the parks department will continue to care for the rinks. Typically the work ceases near the end of February.

Cross country


The city has one groomed cross country ski trail, located at the New Richmond Golf Course.

"It's probably New Richmond's best kept secret," Kerlin said.

Recent years have been tough for the trail because of the lack of snow.

"It's been a bad five years," Kerlin said. This year, however, the trail is open.

The city's groomed course is located at 1226 180th Ave., half a mile west of New Richmond off Highway 64, County Road K and George Norman Drive. Starting and stopping points are at the parking lot and club house.

The entire length is about three miles, and the trail is for beginner or intermediate level skiers.

The parks department packs the trail with snowmobiles, Kerlin said. When there are no bare spots after packing, the trail is groomed for skiers.

The groomer was made to pull behind a snowmobile. It sets four tracks, enough for two skiers side by side, into the snow.

Typically it takes two people two hours to re-groom the trail after each snowfall, Kerlin said.

The parks department also packs a path around Hatfield Park but does not set ski tracks in it.

All rinks, ski trails and walking paths are free and open to the public. Questions or concerns may be directed to the parks department at 243-0440.