The Ashland Parks and Recreation Department is weighing costs and options for a new roof over the Ashland Rotary Centennial Ice Rink, which has been without a cover since heavy snow and a tree crushed its canopy in 2007.
The Parks Commission has budgeted $112,000 for a possible temporary roof that could be set up each winter over the rink. It probably would last less than 10 years, Parks Director Don Robertson said.
The old temporary canopy had shown signs of wear and tear before its demise, and some parts needed replacement, Robertson said.
Many ice rink enthusiasts would like to see a permanent, year-round roof that would cost an estimated $500,000, Robertson said.
Those roofs are made of canvas and have an estimated lifespan of 20 years, he said.
A permanent roof would stay in place even in the summer, shading the parking lot that serves as the ice rink in winter.
The parking lot and rink are on Winburn Way, across from Lithia Park. "We do want to put a cover on the ice," Robertson said.
Robertson said the rink works best on cold, clear days and nights. But when it's rainy, rink conditions — and skaters — suffer.
Sunshine softens the ice, forcing rink workers to section off some areas as unusable, or requiring a complete shut-down of the rink, parks workers said.
"Just the other day we had to close off a section because of slush," said ice rink Zamboni driver Sarah Westwood.
She said adults are sometimes banned from skating because of bad ice conditions. Only kids, who weigh less, are allowed to skate then to avoid damage to mats beneath the ice.
Westwood said ice rink workers regularly field calls from would-be skaters who want to know what the day's ice conditions are like.
Frequent skater and Ashland resident David Jimenez said the rink definitely needs a roof to protect it from rain and the sun.
"I understand that it costs a lot of money. I'm all for it. This needs a roof," Jimenez said. "Hopefully the money will come, maybe through fundraising or grants."
Visiting the rink from Eureka, Calif., Damon Brooks said he preferred having no roof because he could view surrounding trees and stars at night.
His wife, Kim Brooks, said she could see both pros and cons.
"Part of the appeal is the outdoor nature of it," she said. "But protecting it and making it available in inclement weather is a practical approach."
Troy Parker, who was visiting from Central Point, also had mixed views.
"I'm wondering what's best for the city as far as usage. If a roof gets more people out in the park, I'm all for it," he said. "It is fun to be in the open air."
Medford resident Rachel Arappagis said she and her friends were drawn to Ashland's rink because it's outdoors. Medford has a large indoor ice rink.
Also from Medford, Josh Carr said he remembers skating at Ashland's rink when it had a cover.
"It was so much nicer," he said. "The ice was better. It was not as melted."
Robertson said the Ashland rink is negatively affected by weather during about two-thirds of its operating days.
In the coming months, the Parks Commission will weigh options for a roof and how it stacks up against other pressing maintenance needs, such as $500,000 in repairs to the historic Perozzi fountain and $50,000 to $60,000 worth of repairs to the Enders Shelter gazebo in Lithia Park, Robertson said.
Parks staff members are still investigating costs for other needs, including major plumbing repairs to the Daniel Meyer Pool and splash pad fixes at Garfield Park, he said.
The Parks Department doesn't have enough money to repair everything, Robertson said.
Meanwhile, city and parks officials are pondering a proposal from Mayor John Stromberg and City Administrator Dave Kanner to transfer $650,000 to $1.8 million from the parks reserve funds into the city's general fund.
The parks system would receive money for maintenance and repairs through the regular budgeting process this spring.
Historically, the quasi-independent Parks Department has received half of city property taxes.
The proposal from Stromberg and Kanner would make parks more like other city departments, which have to compete against each other for funding.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or email@example.com.