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Local outdoor skating rinks

Locals enjoy some an evening hockey on the Ely ice skating rink. (photo by Doug Lindner)

Local communities’ outdoor skating rinks
By Trent Bowman
North Liberty Leader
“The best things in life are free,” sang Barrett Strong on his 1959 single “Money (That’s What I Want).”
The cities of North Liberty, Solon and Ely found a way to capitalize on Iowa’s traditionally cold winters and are offering free outdoor ice skating in designated areas.
Ever since Mike Reeves, the Solon Parks and Rec activities director, can remember, that’s the way it’s been in Solon.
He said he couldn’t tell you when the city started it or why, every winter the city has flooded their outdoor skating area with a hydrant and a series of hoses.
“Unfortunately,” said Reeves, “We don’t have a building nearby where they can get out of the cold.”
There are no hours and no lights at the skating area, so Reeves said it comes down to common sense for when skaters should be there.
In North Liberty, Recreation Department Director Shelley Simpson said a lot of people use the skating area, and she believes it began in conjunction with the town’s annual Beat the Bitter event.
Simpson said there are no hours posted for skating in North Liberty, either, and the park is pretty much open as long as the ice conditions are favorable.
If the conditions are deemed by the city not to be favorable, said Simpson, the city will close the gates and post a sign.
North Liberty’s Beat the Bitter event will be held on Feb. 2-3, and there will be signs letting people know when they can skate.
Simpson noted, people can bring their own skates or rent them at the recreation center.
Callie O’Brien, the recreation coordinator in Ely, said she was told there had previously been skating allowed on the town’s pond.
“So we wanted to provide a safer option,” she said. The city now floods its tennis courts, adjacent to Ely’s community center, and uses hanging strings of lights to illuminate the area.
O’Brien pointed out the day before was recorded as the area’s busiest day this winter season.
“We’ve been getting a lot of use,” O’Brien said.
The hours posted in Ely allow for skating from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.