A little, hidden park known as “The Gully” was alive with sounds of children’s laughter and smells of barbecued hot dogs on Saturday. The Ely City Council was throwing a party to celebrate the opening of a new, temporary ice skating rink that they had been planning since summer.
For Mayor Melody Van Camp, the rink brought her back to her youth, where skating rinks were an annual tradition in Ely.
“When I was about 9 or 10 years old, the city council had an ice skating rink up here and they had parties up here. They haven’t had anything up here for years,” Van Camp said.
The Mayor gave credit to city councilmen Bruce Setterstrom and Marty Westland for coming up with the idea and working with city crews over the summer to dig out the area for the rink and fill it with water to eventually freeze.
Westland, who was also the one grilling up hot dogs, said that he was pleased with the end result.
“This is what should be happening,” the councilman said.
Setterstrom said that opening an ice rink for families during the winter months has been a goal of his for the past three years. He said that before he was on the city council, he had asked council members if it was possible.
“I went in front of the council three years ago and asked if we could have a skating rink. They said no because the city’s insurance won’t cover it,” he said.
After checking into that last year, Setterstrom said that the city’s insurance not only covers the ice skating rink, but that it covers multiple different types of events that the city can put on. Upon hearing that, he got to work.
After having failed to construct a rink at Broadbent Park the year prior, Setterstrom said that he was determined to get things right this time.
“This is something I was even more determined to do this year since we failed last year,” Setterstrom said.
The rink, which is located between Reno Rd. and Elysium Ave. just above the Gianoli substation, officially opened on New Year’s Eve. According to Setterstrom, it will remain open for as long as the weather will permit.
Many families turned out to skate with their young ones on Saturday. One such skater was eight-year-old Sierra Rodriguez who was just learning to skate.
“I think that it is really, really fun to ice skate out here. Even though it’s only my second day trying to skate, I’m having a lot of fun,” Rodriguez said.
Setterstrom said that he wants to have the rink become an annual event put on by the city and that he wants to make it even bigger next year.