City officials looking to open skating at Wahby Park

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 17, 2014

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Pursuing a suggestion by several members of City Council, St. Clair Shores is looking into the possibility of making the ponds at Wahby Park in front of Blossom Heath Park suitable for ice skating and hockey.

Councilman Anthony Tiseo said he would like to see the surface of the pond made skateable and pointed out that it was something the Parks and Recreation Department had listed as a goal in its five-year master plan.

“It says that we would have an ice hockey indoor (rink and) also ice hockey outdoor,” he said. “I kind of want to know … why we wouldn’t do this if we have it in our plan.”

Mayor Kip Walby said that when he was first elected in 1999, the intention was always to be able to skate on the ice in that park.

“There absolutely was the intent to have that place open for ice skating there,” he said. “We took the tennis courts away, and people played hockey. … It was the intention to skate on those rinks.”

And Tiseo pointed out that skaters come anyway; it would just be nicer if the city would clear the snow and make the pond a skatable surface.

But Assistant City Manager Mike Smith pointed out that there could be some liability issues to consider if the city were to begin maintaining the pond.

“The problem is that you must continuously (maintain) it,” he said.

He said that perhaps the Parks and Recreation Department could be called upon to resurface the ice and maintain it, but he worried that it could become extremely expensive to continue.

“The liability argument, I guess I don’t understand completely,” said Tiseo. “We have a lot of things in the city that are subject to lawsuits.”

City Councilman Peter Rubino agreed.

“I don’t think we need to spend that much money to get it to where it’s a functionable skating rink,” he said at the Feb. 3 City Council meeting. “That, I think, would be a great use of TIFA funds.”

A week after the idea was first suggested, Walby said the city is currently working to get the ice ready for skaters during the Aqua Freeze Festival, which runs Feb. 21-23 at Blossom Heath Park.

“We’re working to see if we can’t keep that open past that as an open skating facility for our residents,” he said. “We don’t have those costs, yet, of the upkeep. We would probably use the Fire Department to help assist us in watering that down.”

He said Tiseo, the Parks and Recreation Department and City Manager Philip Ludos are working together to determine the details of how resurfacing could be done.

“When both Tony and myself were kids here, you used to be able to skate there,” he said. “We’d like to bring that back and for sure, for 2014-2015. … We’re looking for it to be nice.”