5:30 p.m., Jan. 15)
volunteers maintain community’s outdoor rinks
OConnell floods the outdoor rink at
the South Fallingbrook Community Centre. Fred
quite possibly the most thankless job in the city. Every
night, they dress against the elements and venture out
to more than a dozen outdoor rinks across the east end
to clear and flood the ice and make sure theyre
in the best condition possible.
they do all this in virtual anonymity without any compensation.
are the outdoor rink maintenance volunteers whose sanity
many would call into question if the public knew to what
lengths they go so that the rest of us can skate for free
in the great outdoors.
OConnell has been maintaining the three outdoor
rinks in the Fallingbrook area for the past 11 or 12 years.
(Hes not sure exactly when he took the task on).
works anywhere between an hour and three hours a night,
every night of the week providing its cold enough.
I nuts? I guess you have to be a little nuts if you get
upset when it gets warm out and you look forward to a
cold snap, says OConnell. Zero or plus
five is not good for making ice."
January, the weather was especially unpredictable, forcing
OConnell and the other maintenance volunteers to
put in some long hours. When the temperature began to
plummet last week, it was a godsend.
Saturday night, when the windchill factor was a bitter
minus 38 degrees, OConnell, like many of the other
outdoor rink volunteers in the city, was out flooding
done the job for so long, he knows how to dress the part
starting with long underwear. For outerwear, he puts on
a heated Dewalt coat, over which he wears a down-filled
jacket and a Coast Guard survival suit his father gave
has been maintaining the outdoor rinks in
Fallingbrook for the past 12 years. Fred Sherwin/Photo
extremities hands and feet are the most
difficult to protect. Thankfully, OConnells
wife gave him a pair of heated thermal socks for Christmas.
He wears them inside a pair of waterproof snow boots which
would be sufficient under normal circumstances, but standing
on a sheet of ice while operating a two-inch water hose
for 90 minutes to an hour doesnt exactly qualify
as ordinary conditions.
his feet get really cold, he warms them up by spraying
his boots with water from the hose.
are another issue. He has a pair of fleeced-lined rubberized
gloves, but he often has to de-ice them, or
take them off to operate the nozzle, or work on equipment.
By the midway point of the outdoor rink season his hands
are chapped, cracked and raw from the elements.
the bright side he gets plenty of fresh air. On the not
so bright side, he also gets plenty of complaints mostly
from people upset with the condition of the ice.
comes with the job I guess. You cant get too excited
about it, says OConnell, who astonishingly
has only skated on an outdoor rink once in the past 12
why he continues to do the job after all this time, OConnell
has one simple answer he does it for the kids.
you see the families using the rinks and the kids learning
how to skate, it does make it all worth, says OConnell.
And actually, Im not getting as many complaints
as I used to, so I think people are starting to appreciate
what we do and that we are volunteers."
the next time you drive by an outdoor rink on a cold winter
night and you see a guy out flooding the ice, remember
that he isnt a city employee, hes just a volunteer
whos doing it out of the goodness of his heart and
to help make his community a better place to live.
perhaps, just perhaps, you might want to stop, get out
of your nice warm car, and go thank him, because trust
me when I tell you, there arent many around like
story was made possible thanks to the generous support
of our local business partners.)
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