For the first time ever, the city’s snowplowing chief is hoping for cold weather and lots of snow.
Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen is cheering this year’s wintry weather because he’s finally managed to put together a winter carnival at Central Park. It will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23.
The city has also arranged for free ice skating lessons at an indoor rink for 30 lucky kids. Skates are included, and the city will bring those skates to Central Park every Saturday as well, so the children can practice their skills on Iroquois Lake with their friends.
Olsen began to plan a winter event when children told The Daily Gazette that they’d go to the parks in the cold if the city built a big sledding hill and provided ice skates at the lake.
“It’s really all due to that,” Olsen said. “The kids said that’s what they wanted. You know, parks are open 365 days a year, not just during the summer.”
First, firefighters flooded the lake at Central Park to create a smooth surface. Some skaters used it — particularly for pick-up hockey games — but most children said it was useless because there was no place to rent skates.
So Olsen spent a year soliciting donors in hopes of buying enough skates to start a skating program.
Price Chopper and Carver Construction donated $3,600 for ice time at the Schenectady County Recreational Facility in Glenville. Children will get lessons there every Sunday for six weeks.
Ed Kosiur, the new assistant to the county commissioner of social services for youth development, volunteered to drive 10 of the children to the rink. Olsen hasn’t yet figured out how to get the rest of the group to Glenville; he’s hoping someone will hear about the plan and offer transportation.
“If an organization that was already dealing with kids provides the transportation, we could allow them to choose the kids,” he said.
The program will start as soon as he has transportation for everyone, he said.
MANY HELPING HANDS
The Parent Teacher Organization of the Schenectady City School District will chaperone children at Iroquois Lake on Saturdays during the program, as well as running a concession stand that will benefit the PTO.
An anonymous donor has offered to buy the skates for each of the 30 children, and City Mission donated another $500 for skates, mittens or other items.
“We’ll probably use it for skates so the PTO would have an inventory for future years,” Olsen said.
The PTO will also bring the children’s skates to the winter carnival.
“Those kids can show their stuff if we can produce ice,” Olsen said.
The ice is already so thick that Olsen is about to flood it for skating. But he can’t guarantee that it will still be solid on Feb. 23.
“We could get 60-degree weather. You have to hope the climate will cooperate,” he said. “I can’t believe it — I never imagined I would ever be hoping for cold and snow.”
He usually hopes for mild winters because he supervises the plowing — forcing him to sometimes work for days on only a couple hours sleep. But this time he’s hoping for lots of snow.
City workers will use the snow to build special hills for tubing and snowboarding. There will be demonstrations in cross-country skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and ice fishing, as well as tubing races and possibly a hockey game.
Residents will also be able to play softball in the snow.
“Did you ever see anybody play a softball game in the snow?” Olsen said. “It’s a riot.”
There will be snow sculpting and a chili cookoff, and Boy Scout troops may be allowed to camp at the park overnight.
The event is on the same day as the county’s winter carnival at Maple Ski Ridge, but Olsen said the ski hill in Rotterdam is too far away for many city residents.
“A lot of kids in the city aren’t going to have access to Maple Ski Ridge,” he said.
The PTO and the neighborhood watch will provide supervision during the carnival.
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