For the first time in several years Mother Nature has provided enough snow and cold to allow the Alpena Optimist Club to construct an ice rink at McRae Park in Alpena. For years the north side park was a popular destination for ice skaters, particularly for the kids who lived in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Optimist member Jeff Shea said the club began making ice rinks about five years ago when it created ice at Optimist Acres at the corner of Herron Road and M-32. He said when there was ice there not many people utilized it and after some discussion the club determined that putting an ice rink at McRae Park in town would fit better with the group's mission of serving as many of the area's youth as possible. Alpena Municipal Council granted the Optimist Club permission to make the rink, but several mild winters threw a monkey wrench in the plans for several years.
"The first year it went OK, but the next year we just didn't get cold enough to make good ice and the following year we didn't get the amount of snow we needed, because you need to have about a foot of snow, which is packed, to provide a good base for the ice," Shea said. "The year we had it open and we were going to host an open house and we had food and hot chocolate and of course it was like 45 degrees. We haven't had good luck, but this winter it has been perfect so far."
Shea said he hopes the rink will be used not only by kids, but adults as well. He said even thought it hasn't been open much the past few years, there have been adults who have visited, and reminisce about skating at the park with their friends when they were children.
Years ago the "warmup" building would be open for skater to take a break and warm up before returning to the ice, but that will not be the case this year. In order to open the facility it needs to be rented, so skaters will have to make sure to dress warm and stay as dry as possible.
Shea said making the ice rink is only one of the things the Alpena Optimist Club does to help local youth. He said the organization has a huge impact on the lives of children, not only in the United States, but internationally.
"Our motto is Friend of Youth and and helping them is our main goal," Shea said. "There are statistics that show for every optimist member there is, it improves the life of 35 children. the kids are our future and we need them to do well. It is our mission to help them get the services, opportunities and recreation they need to do well."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.