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Ice Skating at Washington Park

Written by Erin Ganzke
    Thursday, 27 February 2020
Ice Skating at Washington Park

As a member of the Urban Ecology Center, one of the great perks you have that you can borrow a variety of adventure equipment for your family and friends. This Equipment Lending benefit allows you to have adventurous experiences in our urban parks or wherever you wish to go! While you can borrow snowshoes and cross-county skis at any branch, Washington Park has something unique -- ice skates! And one of the places you can try out our skates is on the Washington Park lagoon; that is, when the ice is thick enough. But how thick is enough?

In previous years the required ice thickness on the lagoon was 8 inches. This year that number has been reduced to 6. We recently passed the 6 inch mark (yay!), shoveled off the lagoon and welcomed students to this slippery, frozen playground. We plan to bring out the ice skates and the hockey sticks soon for members to enjoy before it melts.

Kid ice skating with adult holding their hands.

Ice Skating at Washington Park.

This year's build up was slow going, but is this typical for late February? Michaela Rosenthal, Land Steward at Washington Park, is trying to find out.

Michaela has collected data over the past few years in order to monitor our ice thickness. She drills into the ice in three different locations and takes an average of all of the thicknesses. This information helps us to better understand the fluctuation, where we might see trends, and what past winters have provided. Figures 1-4 below show some of those ice depth trends and fluctuations over the course of the winter months.

Figure 1

Ice core depths measured in inches that were taken from the lagoon outside the Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park in the winter of 2016 – 2017.

Even though we do not have data from December of 2016, from Figure 1 we can see that there was substantial ice prior to January 21st. The largest measured ice depth from this season came in just under 10 inches! Sadly, that ice skating season was short lived and soon the lagoon was no longer suitable for further ice skating.

Figure 2

Ice core depths measured in inches that were taken from the lagoon outside the Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park in the winter of 2017 – 2018.

Figure 2 shows that the 2017-2018 winter was kind to our ice skating needs in that we had suitable ice skating conditions from the end of December through the beginning of February. Our ice was measured to be 10 inches thick on several occasions, which made for a great winter for ice skating!

Figure 3

Ice core depths measured in inches that were taken from the lagoon outside the Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park in the winter of 2018 – 2019.

Figure 4

Ice core depths measured in inches that were taken from the lagoon outside the Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park in the winter of 2019 – 2020.

Finally, Figure 4 is showing us how we are doing this season in terms of ice depth. As you can see, at the beginning of winter we were not getting those ice skating conditions that we hoped, hovering around 4 inches thick. Recently, the temperatures dropped and the ice grew to 6 inches!

Follow the Urban Ecology Center on Facebook and be the first to know when it is time to ice skate in Washington Park. See you on the ice!

Erin Ganzke

Erin Ganzke

Erin Ganzke is the Visitor Services Specialist at the Washington Park Branch. She has her Masters of Science in Freshwater Science from UWM and started at the UEC as a Community Program Educator. Erin enjoys traveling, outdoor sports, and any excuse to get on a lake on her paddleboard.

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