I was disheartened to read in the Chieftain that some folks think that the Wallowa Valley Community Ice Rink has been closed for lack of effort or motivation on the part of those who volunteer to maintain it.
Many people may not know that everything about the rink –– the fundraising, the setup, the maintenance and the takedown –– comes from an all-volunteer force. These volunteers have jobs, families and busy lives outside of the rink.
Some of us even take time off work and use vacation hours to get things running or to address emergencies at the rink.
In addition, there is a huge contingent of unsung heroes when it comes to maintaining the rink. Several times this year, I drove over to the rink after work and found that some person or group of people had shoveled the ice. This is at least a two hour undertaking for one person.
I would be remiss not to mention the members of the rink committee and hockey team. Without their enthusiasm and continued persistent efforts, the rink would disappear. Thank you all, and the many others who put in countless hours, donated money and equipment and bought advertisements to keep things going.
As Paul mentioned last week in his column, it truly has been the fault of weather that the rink has been so infrequently open. Following any rain, sleet or snow event during warm conditions, it takes at least eight volunteer hours to get the ice back into safe and usable condition.
When it is sleeting and snowing every day for two straight weeks and the daytime highs are above 30, it is simply not possible to keep the rink open.
I will offer these suggestions:
If you enjoy the rink and want to see it open more, there is a concerted effort by the rink committee and the City of Enterprise to acquire funding to make improvements that will offer a longer and more consistent skating season.
We hope to build a covered structure over the rink to protect it from precipitation, put a slab of concrete underneath it to prevent cracking and heaving and purchase a tractor-pulled Zamboni to turn resurfacing from a two-hour ordeal into a five-minute chore.
However, none of this can happen unless our potential funders are overwhelmed with a sense that the entire community uses, enjoys and benefits from this rink.
If everyone who uses the rink (including kids) took five minutes to write a letter about what the rink means to them and why they support a better facility, we have a good shot at securing the funds necessary to make consistent quality skating a reality in the near future in Wallowa County.
Describe the value that the rink brings to your life. Then, explain how frustrated and sad you are that you couldn’t skate as often as you wanted.
Ask for help funding our rink to solve this issue. Give these letters to the folks at the Enterprise City Hall. They will keep them on file to use every time we apply for a grant or solicit a private funder.
Flood our Facebook page with photos that you have taken at the rink. Families and kids with smiling faces are hard for funders to turn down.
Also, we will begin circulating a petition soon to show large-scale community support for this project. Stay tuned.
Talk to your elected officials and let them know that the rink is important to you and your quality of life. These folks want to support projects that make you and your family happy and healthy, but they need to know that you want these projects in the first place.
Spread the word. Tell everyone you know that now is the time to get on board and get a community-wide effort to improve the rink. A couple minutes of effort from everyone to voice their support is the most persuasive way to convince others that we deserve better rink facilities.
And lastly, thank you for using the rink, taking care of it and most of all enjoying it. It might not be until December, but I can’t wait to see you all back out on the ice.
Ryan Oberhelman is leader of the Wallowa Valley Community Ice Rink Committee.