No-Bad-DaysBy Don Nelson

In sports, the rallying cry after a disappointing season is often “wait ’til next year” — which is pretty much tautological if you think about it, because what else are you going to do?

But that’s about what the community is left with after a maddening cascade of events made it impossible to use the refrigeration equipment that was expected to produce an enduring sheet of manufactured ice at the Winthrop Ice & Sports Rink (WISR) this winter.

If everything had proceeded on schedule (and here we can evoke any number of aphorisms along the lines of  “man makes plans, and God laughs”), in November we would have been skating on ice made by — and preserved by — a network of cooling coils under the new concrete surface. The expanded main building, including a rentals area, changing rooms and a large second-floor space for relaxing and viewing the rink, was ready to go.

However, the refrigeration equipment — expensive, heavy, and originating a couple of thousand miles away from the Methow — didn’t arrive on schedule. And didn’t arrive on the next promised date. Or the one after that, until it was February before the equipment finally arrived.

And then it didn’t work, or work well enough to be reliable. It still doesn’t, despite the best efforts of WISR to order the necessary parts and get them installed and tested. The whole thing has been one hot mess of failure by the equipment’s vendor to deliver as promised.

You probably don’t know anyone who is more relentlessly upbeat than Jill Calvert, president of the WISR board. With every delay, she remained optimistic and enthused about unveiling the new ice surface — one that will eventually will allow the rink to greatly expand its season and add lots of activities such as hockey tournaments.

But even Calvert was dispirited this week after the WISR board had to conclude that the rink would not re-open this season. She was frustrated, weary and apologetic to the community about the canceled season. In the next moment, however, she was ebullient about the rink’s future and looking forward to November. Calvert’s a believer, in large measure because she and others with long-term involvement in the rink’s conception, construction and expansion are well aware of the donations, in-kind materials and hundreds of hours of volunteer labor that have gone into the project. Of the approximately $1 million invested in the rink so far, about half of it has come from the community’s cumulative efforts. We are, literally, invested in the rink’s success.

I don’t think there’s any doubt about pent-up demand for skating. Nature graced us with appropriately cold weather in December, and the rink opened on Christmas Day to an onslaught of happy skaters gliding over natural ice. That didn’t last long as temperatures crept back up into the ice-melting range. Three scheduled hockey tournaments were canceled because the ice wasn’t there. People want to come.

So stow the blades but don’t give up hope. The rink is going to be a Methow Valley winter fixture for a long time.

Hoofing it

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has paid thoughtful attention to Winthrop’s Westernization theme in its plans for repaving two miles of Highway 20 through the town next year, which will include upgrading the crosswalks at the four-way stop to Americans With Disability Act standards. WSDOT will stamp and stain the concrete to look like the adjacent boardwalks, and it offered to paint hoof prints — horseshoe tracks — in the crosswalks for the amusement of pedestrians.

The town council didn’t know quite what to do with that, and I don’t think I can blame them. Would hoof prints be too “cute” for an authentic Western setting? Would pedestrians impede traffic, and endangers themselves, by stopping to look and take pictures of the prints? Who would take care of the decorations in the future?

Good questions, and problematic enough for the council to decide against hoof prints. On balance, I don’t think we need such things to draw people to Winthrop and convince them to stay a while. There are plenty of reasons to do that already. As for horses — isn’t it a lot more fun to see the real thing clopping along Riverside Avenue every so often?


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