Despite work in October, land rink at Janesville's Traxler Park still not freezing

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Marcia Nelesen
Sunday, December 22, 2013

JANESVILLE--The Traxler Park lagoon had about 6 inches of ice after the recent cold weather, and city crews have plowed the snow aside to ready the surface for skating.

Nearby, a manmade skating rink has standing water, the third year in a row the rink might not be skated on.

City workers are frustrated.

Cullen Slapak, assistant parks director, is among them.

“Don't ask me why,” Slapak said last week about why the $45,000 rink refuses to freeze. “I don't know.”

“We've made some changes in repairs each year, I believe, and it's still not wanting to freeze,” Slapak said.

“It's frustrating, to say the least.”

Slapak is not sure whether the rink will open this season.

Workers continue to adjust the water flow, hoping that will help.

In October, workers dug around a drain, found a leak and did repairs they thought would fix the problem, Slapak said.

“There's obviously still something that isn't quite right,” Slapak said.

It might be that the clay liner under the rink is allowing water to seep through.

Before building the rink, the city took borings of the ground, and they indicated an adequate clay base to hold water, he said.

The city in 2010 installed a series of pipes to flood the rink with chilled water from beneath the ice sheet. A city engineer described it as a floating rink.

In earlier years, workers and volunteers created a rink by spraying water from a fire hose to build up thin layers of ice.

The new system was meant to prolong the skating season by preserving ice through warming spells. It is designed to have ice at least 7 inches thick around the edges and about 15 inches thick in the center. Designers said it also would save water.

City workers this summer replaced a rubber liner and sealed a leak, which staff thought was causing the rink to constantly refill with warmer water. The work was done under warranty.

Workers also used clay and granular bentonite to better seal a manhole.

Slapak said he's crossing his fingers, hoping that tinkering with the water flow will help before winter is done. The city could drain the water from the rink and spray a new ice surface as it did years ago.

“It's gotta be something with the spot, the land beneath,” Slapak said.

Meanwhile, Friends of Traxler Park plan to open the warming house Thursday, Dec. 26, for skating on the lagoon.

Volunteers stoke a wood stove, loan free skates and sell concessions. Restrooms are also open.

The lagoon is difficult to maintain for skating, though, because the edges thaw, Slapak said.

Heavy equipment has fallen through the lagoon ice in the past. When snow is pushed to the edges, it can cause the ice underneath to melt and create weak points, Slapak said.

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