Two More Parks in Grand Rapids Might Get Outdoor Ice Skating Rinks

Cherry Park in East Hills and Wilcox Park in Eastown could get outdoor ice rinks this winter.

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is eyeing the two neighborhoods to gauge interest in ice skating and the possibility of building permanent rinks with millage funds approved by city voters last month. Ice rinks would promote year-round activity in neighborhood green spaces, parks advocates say.

“It’s just really exciting for us. With everything that’s happening in our business district we’re really a walkable neighborhood year round,” said Rachel Lee, East Hills Council of Neighbors executive director. “Our goal as a neighborhood is to be an active four-season neighborhood and the idea of an ice rink enhances that.”

Grand Rapids in the past had several outdoor ice-skating rinks – Lee’s office next to Cherry Park used to be a warming hut for skaters, for example – but all of those closed over the years. Parks advocates now hope to relive some of that history.

Richmond Park on the city’s West Side has had a temporary outdoor rink the past few winters. As the city now looks to remove old wading pools and use millage revenue to replace them with new water features, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks wants to give skating rinks a try at Cherry and Wilcox.

The volunteer-run rinks possibly could open for skating by late January, said Steve Faber, executive director. Based on neighborhood interest, the city could try to integrate a permanent refrigerated ice rink into splash pads envisioned for the parks, he said.

“We really have always wanted to do more than just the rinks at Richmond,” Faber said. “Those wading pools at Wilcox and Cherry, there’ll be a replacement hopefully soon in terms of a water feature there, so part of it is we wanted to introduce the idea of ice skating at these locations yet this winter to see if it’s something the community enjoys and wants.”

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