By Barbie Porter
onstruction for the downtown skating rink will soon begin at a new location. During a special Frazee City Council meeting on Thursday, Sept. 30, the council approved moving the skating rink to the area next to the retention pond, near the corner of Main Avenue and Fifth Street. The work to be done this year will be minimal, such as a safety fence between the public area and the retention pond, light installation and earthwork to create a level surface.
Future thoughts to enhance the area have been pitched, but are yet to be approved, include giving the warming house a rustic cabin facade, installing a western town facade along the railroad fence to provide ambiance and a sound buffer from trains, as well as creating seating areas.
The past few years the rink has been located downtown, near the corner of Lake Street and Main Avenue. The new business building is being constructed at the former location, which pushed the council to find a new home for the skating rink.
The past few months the council considered several locations, and some residents in attendance thought better of those ideas. The biggest item of contention expressed by residents attending the meeting had to do with a student-led garden that was added to where the rink is being moved.
Those working on the garden said the full plan included expanding the space with an all natural garden and plants to attract butterflies.
The group of residents representing the garden area asked the council why they were not invited to partake in the discussion of the rink location. It was noted they were recently informed that the raised gardens needed to be moved and the rink was going to be placed there.
Councilman Mark Kemper said the conversation has been ongoing the past four months. He added it has also been in the newspaper.
A resident noted he reads the newspaper each week and didn’t see the council talking about moving the rink to the pond location.
Kemper then noted it was in the minutes (which are not printed in the paper), and the conversation was brief.
The council shared they had not been made aware of who was in charge of the garden project. It was noted the city’s utilities superintendent, Larry Stephenson, gave the green light for the gardens.
Both parties agreed their lack of communication created some unnecessary ruffled feathers and all agreed that a skating rink has a benefit to the community and its residents.
During the meeting it was noted the garden beds needed to be removed regardless, as they needed work. It was also noted there were other concerns with the gardens, as they were not separated far enough apart to allow the city maintenance crew to mow between them, and unapproved tilling happened as well.
Kemper suggested when the boxes are redone that they be made so a Bobcat can move them after the produce in them is harvested. The boxes could be set near the fence and returned to their location in the spring.
“We could do both,” he said, and then asked if those with the garden would consider that a permanent place for the gardens that they sought.
One man stated he saw that as permanent, but wondered if their future plans would be an option.
Some residents expressed concerns of the retention pond area as a safe space for children. One local resident, who stated she lives across the street from the pond, said she believes there will be potential for accidents on the street, mischief from kids climbing the windmill structure (even if a fence is placed around it) and additional litter at the site.
It was determined by the council that safety concerns are prevalent everywhere.
Other skating rink locations discussed included the:
• The demolition derby site. Logistics made it not viable. The cement posts needed for the lights would need to be moved and reinstalled each year to allow for the derby to take place. Costs would also include “major dirt work” annually and there were concerns about lack of shelter from the wind and the need to get railroad approval, as the property abuts the tracks and there is no fence separating the spaces.
• A private lot owned by local businesswoman Jay Estenson. It was noted the lot could be sold, and was not large enough for a public rink.
• The sledding hill at Hank Ludtke Park. There was concern about the walk across the bridge because in the winter the snow reduces the space that can be used off the road. There were also concerns about space availability for the rink at the park.
• A space near the elementary school was discussed, as that was the rink site several years ago. It was noted the space is not protected from the wind and was rarely used for many years.