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Ester Community Association provides safe outdoor activity with a volunteer maintained ice rink

Joe Geiss and his Zamboni named Alice, help to provide clean smooth ice for skaters during the long winter months.
"Making Ice is a hell of a process. If I can make a good strong ice then everyone can enjoy it...
"Making Ice is a hell of a process. If I can make a good strong ice then everyone can enjoy it that much more." -Joe Geiss(Ryan Osborne)
Published: Dec. 9, 2020 at 4:12 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -The Ester Community Association purchased an ice resurfacer out of Juneau several years ago, and has since made use of it every winter to produce a pristine skating rink.

Joe Geiss has been volunteering in the maintenance of the park for 10 years, and is the current operator of the machine. “Ester has it’s own Zamboni. Her name is Alice. She is an Olympia, which is actually the competition of Zamboni - same concept, different brand,” said Geiss.

With Alaska’s winter months limiting the viability of many outdoor activities, the ice rink gives the Ester community a recreational option. Geiss noted the importance of such alternatives during the pandemic.

“Living in Fairbanks, Alaska where it gets cold and dark, having a place to do outdoor activities is perfect. It’s what everybody needs. The main focus now even more in this pandemic is people still need to get outside and be active, so here’s a great opportunity, having this park and the ice rink outdoors where people can socially distance to whatever means they’re comfortable and still have some outside semi-social time,” said Geiss.

The work generating the ice and maintaining its viability for skating over the course of the winter is a lengthy and involved process.

“The way we start making the ice is you gotta look at a 10 day weather forecast, and at that point obviously you need every day to be below freezing. Every day we’re goin’ down to the rink and dragging hoses from the fire department. They help us out providing the water and the hoses. As far as having a neighbor to the park, it couldn’t get much better,” said Geiss.

After several hours, and thousands of gallons of water applied to the rink, the ice is left to settle for 24 hours, and then the process will be repeated.

“There’s literally probably a hundred hours that goes into making the ice. That’s all volunteer time. In order to get that ice as level, flat, and perfect as possible, it takes anywhere from 10 to 14 days worth of flooding,” said Geiss

This amount of work setting the initial ice rink carries a lot of benefits in the long run, such as reducing maintenance needs and increasing safety.

“There’s definitely a science to it - but my whole objective has always just been, in the process of making ice, if I can do it as well as possible then it’s less maintenance over the rest of the winter. It’s not chipping out real bad where you got three inch cracks goin’ on and people breaking ankles.”

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