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Budget cuts may keep Central Hillside's ice rink out of commission

By Ali Draves
DCN Reporter

As the winter months creep closer, the Duluth community is struggling to keep the tradition of the popular Grant Recreation skating rink alive.

Due to recent citywide budget cuts, the rink’s future is in jeopardy because no one is employed to flood and maintain it.

In previous years, the Duluth Parks Maintenance crew would have been in charge of flooding the community rink.

However, this year’s financial state forced half the maintenance employees to plow the city streets, instead of dedicating their time to the rinks.

“Everyone wants their streets plowed,? said Kathy Bergen, the Interim Director of Duluth Parks and Recreation. “Although it’s important, it leaves us in a bind and we have to pull together our limited resources.?

The rink is vital to the Hillside area, according to Recreational Specialist Chuck Campbell.

“We usually have 30 skaters a night,? said Campbell. “It’s more than just a neighborhood rink, it’s a place for the community to be together.?

In fact, over 1,560 children skated at Grant Recreation Community Center’s rink last year, according to the 2006 Duluth Parks and Recreational Annual Report.

Surprisingly, most children come to the rink without a pair of skates.

Grant, unlike most ice rinks, has an entire room full of skates that children can use for free.

“We have a lot of users,? said Campbell. “Most of the children can’t afford skates, or don’t know how to use them. That’s why we’re here.?

At six-years-old, Kristie Larson is one of those kids.

“Last year, I was here almost every night because I can walk here from my house,? she said. “I want it to be like that this year too.?

Larson and the rest of the neighborhood kids wouldn’t be able to travel to other rinks, making it fundamental addition to the community.

“It would be impossible for a child to walk or take the bus to another rink,? Bergen said.

Realizing the severity of the situation, Grant has enlisted the help of Lincoln Park Citizen Patrol and other volunteers.

“We’re going to get the word out that this rink needs to be maintained,? said Rick Minotte, the head of the Lincoln Park Citizen Patrol. “We know we can help.?

There is a wide range of volunteers involved within the organization and many will be more than willing to help the situation, he said.

“Even if it’s only for a few hours every night, it’s more than what would be available through city funding,? Minotte said. “It will depend on how many volunteers we get.?

Roger Hill, an employee at the Grant Recreation Community Center, is also willing to help.

“It’s going to suck to do it by hand, but I’ll do it,? he said. “Everyone will pitch in because they love the kids.?

Bergen, despite the obstacles, is optimistic about the rink’s future.

“If the community and other organizations pitch in, I know the rink will be up and running,? she said. “I’m hopeful.?