By SEAN HARKINS
News Staff Writer
Alpena residents still missing the outdoor ice rink at Mich-e-ke-wis may soon have another option for free outdoor skating.
The Alpena Optimist Club will provide a rink at McRae Park that would be free to use, pending review by the City of Alpena.
City Manager Thad Taylor said insurance issues need to be reviewed and clubs that use the baseball fields at the park need to be notified of the rink, though he said there is little chance the ice would adversely affect the fields.
Optimist Club member Jeff Shea said the club had a rink at Optimist Acres, which is on Herron Road just south of M-32, for about 10 years but turnout at the rink had been low.
"We've built that rink out there for years and watched four to five kids use it regularly," Shea said.
He hoped having a rink, which will be 80 feet by 150 feet, at McRae will be used by many more kids.
The club would construct the rink, which would include building a bed for it and then flooding it. Shea said once the club gets formal approval from the city, that process would take one or two weeks depending on the weather.
Alpena Municipal Council unanimously gave their support to the rink on Monday, so once Taylor clears those two hurdles - which he said he hopes to have done by the end of the week - the club can start their work.
Once the ice is useable, the club will perform routine maintenance on it, but help from the city may be requested in the event of a major snowstorm.
Shea said one of the goals of the club is to serve youth and provide them with activities in the community. A skating rink serves that purpose, and is something the club has historically offered the community.
"The Optimist Club, as I understand talking to the old guys, we built the rink behind the Boys Club many many years ago, and I understand it was the first rink in town," Shea said.
Taylor said the city does not plan to have an outdoor rink at Mich-e-ke-wis this year, and an offer for the city to buy open skating ice time at Northern Lights Arena will be reviewed by council in the coming weeks.
Sean Harkins can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688.