Park board talks skating rink in the park, survey results

Culver's parks and recreation board lacked enough members in attendance to merit a quorum -- which meant no official votes could be taken -- at its Dec. 5 meeting, but that didn't prevent informative discussion from taking place.

Among topics discussed: the possibility that Culver's park could see an ice skating rink, possibly even yet this winter season.

Brandy Pohl of Culver's Chamber of Commerce, accompanied by Chris Chambers of Rideon Bicycles, suggested a temporary, portable rink be installed at the site of the park's basketball courts, something Pohl said would have been presented by Tony Sellers of the Chamber, had he not been called away to another meeting that evening. The idea, she said, was in conjunction with the "Come Alive Outside" initiative Sellers has been promoting in recent years in Culver, which seeks to increase children and families' outdoor activity in the community.

Pohl said some other communities have had success with the rink concept.

"The movie theater is gone now," she added. "We don't have much for young kids to do here in the winter time."

Pohl also referenced statistics concerning diabetes and chronic diseases associated with children aged 8 to 18 spending eight hours a day or more in front of media.

"I think maybe an ice rink could be a help to get kids and families out enjoying the outdoors," she said. "And it could help bring in business (to the area)."

Chambers explained the portable rink includes a liner for bottom portion and perimeter for the side walls, adding setup and takedown of the rink is "pretty basic." He also noted the rink wouldn't damage the court's concrete, since the ice isn't terribly thick. The cost for a kit appropriate for the basketball courts' size would be around $6,500, he said.

Asked by park superintendent Kelly Young if a committee would be willing to staff the rink, Chambers said he would volunteer time to set up the rink, which he said needs to be resurfaced by clearing off snow and adding water to fill in cracks and scrapes. Pohl noted the liner would have to be replaced every three or four years.

Park board member Kathy Hart said the city of Laporte, Indiana has a similar rink which "is rarely frozen," since the air temperature must stay consistently at 32 degrees or under to maintain the ice, though some audience members pointed out that, while some local winters -- such as last year's -- have lacked enough temperatures to make the endeavor worthwhile, other recent years have been consistently cold.

Young said she would have to check with the park's insurance company, which in the past had eschewed the notion of the park sponsoring ice skating on Lake Maxinkuckee, a tradition through most of the 20th century here.

Board member Patty Stallings suggested the park's new activities director, slated to be hired in early 2013, could plan activities on the rink.

"I think the community would be very excited about this," she added.
The board and superintendent also discussed the park's short and long range plans, which Young said would include input from the public, employees, park board members, and Young herself. In particular, board members discussed ranking various proposed projects in order of priority.

Two Americans with Disabilities Act compliance matters topped the list: a railing for the steps leading to the park’s boat rental piers, and a new sidewalk to connect the parking area more directly with the west pavilion.

Others included updating and renovating the meeting area in the beach lodge and its restrooms, and a public restroom in the west end of the park.

In conjunction with planning, Young also discussed the park survey sent recently to 972 Culver residents, boat slip renters, and Union Township beach pass purchasers. She said 146 returned the survey, or about 15 percent, "which is very good."

There were 54 comments made in regard to park facilities, which she presented to board members in typewritten form. There were also a number of suggestions regarding park programming. She explained there was also a letter from Culver's Lions Club regarding the question of a restroom in the west end of the park.

"It was very, very informative," said Young of the survey. "I learned a lot."

She said the survey's consensus was that there's a need for a public restroom on the west end of the park, with 98 responders answering "yes," 43 "no," and five not answering. 75 responders said the currently available portable toilet does not meet their needs, while 60 said it did, and 11 had no opinion. In replying to the question of where to build the restroom, Young said 59 people answering the survey said it should be built in the west pavilion structure, while 39 said it should be a stand-alone facility, and 42 either didn't reply, or said "neither."

The question of a restroom in the west pavilion had garnered controversy at past park meetings, with some residents expressing concern over potential damage to the 1880s pavilion structure, which was designated with a historic landmark award by the Marshall County Historical Society, should a restroom be installed in the area currently used for equipment storage. Concerns were also raised over policing of a pavilion-placed restroom.

Other survey answers included 74 responders in favor of more picnic tables (to 47 opposed, 19 with no opinion, and six with no definite answer); 64 against adding more grills in the park, to 51 in favor, 25 with no opinion, and six with no answer.

In the area of potential programs at the park, arts and crafts ranked high from responders, as did a walking club and yoga and exercise classes. Other suggestions included teen dances, a climbing wall, community family picnics, winter festivals, a fitness center for seniors, and others.

106 responded positively to the possibility of concerts in the park, 81 to an outdoor movie night, 33 to a family campout, and 26 to a family "sock hop," said Young.

Stallings also asked if the board needed to meet again in December, in view of the quorum lack; Young said she would try to call a meeting.
Audience member Mike Stallings said it's "extremely inconsiderate of board members who don't bother to show up (for meetings). One member hasn't been here in three or four months; that's not the way to run a board."

Chambers expressed agreement.

In other discussion, Stallings said she would like the park board to have input on hiring the aforementioned activities director, which Young confirmed would be the case.

Young told the board the parks department has $30,000 unused money to encumber at the end of the year, and suggested using the funds be used for a computer, replacement furnace for the beach lodge's apartment, and partial funding for a proposed storage shed for park equipment.