It’s been an off winter in
Minne-NoSnow-ta, causing outcries from outdoor activity enthusiasts. A month that weather.com claims to typically be the coldest in Brainerd we’ve instead seen an average temperature
13 degrees higher than normal, including two days in the 50s. It’s a Catch-22; we enjoy the warm weather that allows us to be outside, but it’s that same warm weather that doesn’t let us to do our favorite winter activities. And for Brainerd resident Kurt Doree’s backyard ice rink, his patience with the unseasonably warm winter is melting faster than the rink itself.
“It’s definitely been a frustrating but learning year this year when putting together our rink,” said Doree, who has built a rink on his backyard lawn for the past three years. “The rink itself is nice, but this weather is horrible. You just can’t keep ice on the thing.”
Born and raised in St. Paul, Doree and his wife Michelle moved up to Brainerd eight years ago, where he began work at the Brainerd Fire Department. Despite living in a state captivated by skating rinks, Doree says that he didn’t learn to skate until he was 10 years old, something he didn’t want for his kids, Anthony (18), Taylor (7) and Cole (5).
“When I was a kid, I didn’t learn to skate until I was 10 or 11 because we had to walk a mile and a half to get to the closest rink,” Doree said. “I wanted my kids to be able to learn to skate right away, I mean we live in Minnesota after all. Even though the local park rink is only a couple blocks away, we still have to go through the process of getting the kids bundled up, walking to the rink, putting the skates on, and then after 10 minutes everyone’s cold anyway so we head back home.”
So Doree decided to cut through the hassle, starting construction on this year’s rink in November by placing 2-by-12 boards to encompass the 30-by-40 foot rink — his biggest rink to date. Waiting yet again for cool weather, once the boards were in place Doree put down a plastic liner before taking a meter from the public utilities building and a fire hose that he purchased at an auction to help quickly fill the rink with water three weeks later. Something he has had to do “at least a half a dozen” times already this year.
“The first two years I had the rink were great,” said Doree, who hooks the hose up to the fire hydrant and pays by the gallons used. “We filled it and froze it once and I literally never touched it again until sometime around March when it was too warm to skate on and we just broke the ice up so it could melt. This year I’ve been out there a lot to get water on and keep water on.
“The kids keep asking, ‘dad when are you going to get the rink going?’ but it’s just been so hard. Once I fill, it seems the next day is 50 degrees and the ice goes away and we have to start all over. To make it worse, this year we went even bigger, I even bought a bench and made my own Zamboni (made from PVC piping and garden hoses) so it’s just kind of a bummer that we haven’t had a chance to really use any of it because there’s been no skateable ice.”
Not alone in the search for ice, Brainerd Parks and Recreation’s Director Tony Sailer said city rinks have had the same problem as Doree, even enlisting Doree’s Brainerd Fire Department to fill both Bane and Mill Avenue Park to get the rinks up and running quicker.
“It’s just been a inimitable winter,” said Sailer in a recent email. “During a normal year, rinks open in mid-December and stay open until the first week of March. Now we see the opening and closing of (Gregory Park, Mill Avenue Park and Bane Park) due to the unseasonably warm weather. Ice went from bad to the point of nonexistent.
“Our maintenance crew was working diligently to rebuild the ice, but Mother Nature kept putting the heat on. Now that temperatures are closer to normal, or at least well below freezing, the crew is working hard to get some good ice put down. And with the help of the fire department (Jan. 11) we were able to let an abundance of water hit the rinks and we were skating two days later. If we had rebuilt the rinks by hand it would have taken nearly two weeks to rebuild so they were skateable.”
But not giving up hope yet, Doree said he will hold out on heading down to the park rinks until after the end of this month.
“Until the kids say to me, ‘I don’t want to skate in the backyard anymore’, I am going to keep doing it. It’s a lot of work but I enjoy it as much as the kids do. It just would be nice to get the weather to cooperate as much as the kids do now.”
may be reached at 855-5859.