Will look at options that don’t affect safety
The Winthrop Town Council has agreed to support a study of how to better mitigate “light leakage” at the Winthrop Rink — and this one won’t cost the town a dime.
Residents’ complaints about the rink’s nighttime lighting — which is necessary for safe skating and requires a certain intensity to be effective — started 10 years ago, and solutions such as redirecting the lights and reconfiguring the fixtures have been periodically revisited.
With the help of an anonymous benefactor, the Methow Valley Citizens Council (MVCC) has offered to sponsor a professional assessment of potential solutions. The Town Council endorsed that proposal at its meeting last week.
MVCC Board Chair Tom Jones told the council the study’s recommendations could result in a “win-win-win solution for the town, the rink and the neighborhood.”
Also on hand at last week’s meeting to support the proposal were Dean Kurath, chair of the Methow Dark Sky Coalition Steering Committee, and longtime Dark Sky proponent Kyrie Jardin.
At night, the Winthrop Rink may, depending on your point of view, look like a sparkling gem in the heart of town — or an annoying source of bright lights that can last well into a winter evening.
Over the years, the rink has become increasingly popular with local users, and has drawn an annual mass influx of hockey players who come to Winthrop for tournaments. Those visits generate an impressive amount of spending on lodging, food, gas and other amenities.
It’s a testament to the rink’s popularity that scheduling for all those activities, which can start early in the day and extend well past dark, makes the lighting essential to the facility’s success. But the rink’s long hours have also been a source of irritation for some town residents.
In a letter to the Town Council, the MVCC’s Jones noted the community concerns and recommended retaining Jeffrey Piehl, chief electrical engineer for Minneapolis-based Nelson-Rudie and Associates, to analyze the existing lighting, research potential solutions that would preserve “playability and safety,” and prepare a report of his findings.
Jones said Piehl has designed lighting systems for more than 50 outdoor ice rinks and comes highly recommended.
The study will cost $5,000, which will be covered by an anonymous donor, Jones said. If there are additional costs such as for an on-site visit by Piehl, the anonymous donor will also cover those, Jones said. The report can likely be completed within 30 days, Jones said.
Rink Executive Director Ryan Bell said he is enthused about continuing collaboration between the rink and the Dark Sky Coalition. Bell said he thinks Piehl is a good choice, but it would preferable if the consultant can make an on-site visit.
Mayor Sally Ranzau and council members agreed they could see no down side to supporting the study.
In other business:
• The council appointed Brooke Bourn to the Winthrop Planning Commission. Bourn has been active in promoting and organizing support for the proposed RiverWalk project in downtown Winthrop.
• The council agreed to join in declaring January as Stalking Awareness Month.