February 13, 2002 11:00 pm

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

The idea of establishing an ice rink at Riverside Park was a good one, said Parks Director Mark Touhey, but it had some problems.

One problem was that the liner, which was placed on the concrete slab inside the parks pavilion, arrived late Feb. 1. It was almost too late in the season for any of the water put in by city crews to freeze solid.

But the main problem, and one which could persist unless an answer is found, is one of vandalism.

About a week ago, there was some vandalism, with kids breaking the ice before it set up properly, Touhey said.

The answer to that was to put in a little more water and hope it froze over, smoothing out the surface. That worked fairly well. Even with the warming trend, it was cool enough at night to freeze the water and the pavilion roof provided some shade during most of the day. Arrangements could have been made to block out the late afternoon southern sun, Touhey said.

But the latest vandalism involved someone pulling off 6-foot lengths of plywood boards and throwing them helter-skelter on top of the partly frozen pond. The boards froze into the surface and were still there Wednesday afternoon.

A couple of kids are ruining it for the whole community, Touhey said.

He said the latest incident was the fourth time the place had been vandalized. A donation of $2,000 from the Downtown Lions Club paid for the liner and city crews built the frame around it.

The future use of the rink presents a problem, Touhey said.

Well have to put up some kind of fence around it. The prime skating time (in the future) will be at night, but there will have to be some kind of honor system by the users. And we need to let kids know that the site is being watched and vandals will be turned in to the police, Touhey said.

Well be trying to work out a system where people can be watching it for any problems. The police can do ride-bys, but they cant be there all the time. It will take some citizen participation if we are to continue to have use of the rink.

For now, it appears the use of the rink by the public which never really got to use it is over for this year.

Its done, unless we have some really cold weather. It doesnt look like it will be used any more this year. Well wait until it thaws out completely and then pump out the water, Touhey said. But it has to melt completely or there will be huge chunks of ice remaining and that could rip the liner.

Weve learned a lot about ice rinks and were optimistic for next year, he said.

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