Thaw, freeze create temporary ice rink
by BRIAN NADIG
An ice rink has been on the wish list of the Jefferson Park Advisory Council for 2 years, but this winter Mother Nature provided one at no charge.
Residents reported at the council’s March 12 meeting that on Feb. 23 an influx of cold air froze the snow that had been melting over the two baseball diamonds in the southwest corner of the park and that a smooth icy surface formed. Until the ice began to melt a few days later, as many as 10 people could be seen skating there, resident Magda Stojko said.
Scenes like that were common at city parks until about 40 years ago, when concern about damage caused by skating rinks which park staff or residents created by flooding a portion of a park ended the practice. Outdoor rinks are now operated by a professional company that can cost $50,000 or more, according to council members.
Council president Lionel Rabb said that the council has not given up hope that funds will be available for an ice rink next winter. The council is seeking the opinions of residents on whether they want an outdoor rink as part of a 5-year vision plan that the council is creating for the park.
The proposed improvement plan includes plans for an expanded playlot, a band shell, a concession stand, a dog run, a picnic area and new tennis courts. An online survey on the proposal is available at www.jmpac.org.
Rabb said that about 100 people have completed the survey and that the council will tabulate the results and provide them to the Chicago Park District in April. He said that if the council can demonstrate community support for the proposal, the district would adopt it as its "framework plan" for improving the park.
The council is planning to raise $3 million to $5 million to implement the plan. In the past year the council has hired a staff member, purchased movie projection equipment for the park and sponsored community picnics and concerts, and this summer it will lease two 25-foot-tall water slides.
Also at the meeting, the council approved a resolution to explore a partnership with the organizers of the "Figment" festival. "They are looking for a new home, and they really like this park," council member Cyd Smillie said. "It is just a creativity festival. They don’t charge for anything."
Last year the festival was held in August at the Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., but a scheduling conflict at that park has forced organizers to seek a new location, Smillie said.
The festival, which has no entrance fee, features a variety of art forms, Smillie said. The festival, which organizers describe as family-friendly, was founded in New York in 2007 and takes place in several cities.
The council also plans to meet with representatives of the Roberts Square Playlot Park Advisory Council and the Thuis Playlot Park Advisory Council to discuss the possibility of the councils holding their meetings at the same time. All three parks fall under the supervision of Jefferson Park supervisor Andrea Woppel.
Rabb said that having the same meeting time would make it easier for Woppel and would allow the councils to share ideas and resources but that several issues would have to be worked out. He said that each council may need a designated time slot on the meeting day so that votes can be taken.
The Thuis council is in the process of forming and filing its paperwork with the park district. The 1/3-acre park at 4759 N. Lavergne Ave. has a playlot with a soft surface and a sandbox.
The Roberts Square council, which was formed several years ago over concerns about vandalism and maintenance, has sponsored community events at the 3.5-acre-park, 5200 W. Argyle Ave. The council has campaigned for new play equipment in the park and recently sought the opinions of residents on playlot design.
The Jefferson Park council meets at 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of every other month at the park fieldhouse, 4822 N. Long Ave.
Photos provided by Magda Stojko