FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Feb. 9, 2021) -- When the COVID-19 pandemic began disrupting normal activities in 2020, spending more time outdoors and exploring the many ways to stay active in open-air environments went – ahem – viral.
Fort Drum’s community ice skating rink opened last January with the intent of expanding outdoor recreational opportunities on post. And it did – but with more off-days than operational due to lackluster winter weather, it didn’t become the star attraction as many anticipated.
So far, 2021 has seen the type of North Country winter weather that is making the ice rink a hot spot for outdoor recreation. Since the rink opened on Jan. 25, it has seen more activity in the first 10 days than all of last season.
For those who haven’t visited yet, it’s better than ever.
“With help from the Directorate of Public Works and Directorate of Emergency Services, we were able to make some positive changes to the ice rink this year,” said Rebecca Morgia, Fort Drum Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s Community Recreation Division chief. “The ground has been raised and leveled, enhanced side rails have been added for safety, and a walk-up ramp was added for accessibility.”
The rink, located near Lloyd’s Landing Lodge in Remington Park, has tripled in size since last year and features an outdoor viewing area with warming stations.
“With the current COVID situation impacting many of our large special events, trips and sporting events, we wanted to find a safe activity that our military community could enjoy while social distancing, which is why we expanded the rink,” Morgia said. “It also allows us to offer more functions, such as the ‘Be My Sweetheart’ skate event this Friday.”
The special Valentine’s Day-themed is scheduled from 7 to 10 p.m. Feb. 12, and it is open to all DoD ID cardholders of all ages. Skates are available for free on a first-come, first-served basis. Attendees also can enjoy a free hot dog with a bag of chips and hot beverage. The event is sponsored by the Gary Sinise Foundation.
Morgia said that nearly 800 skaters have enjoyed the rink within the first two weeks of operation. If the weather continues to cooperate, she said the hope is to keep the rink open for another month.
“The weather always plays an important part in this type of venture,” she said. “We depend on the bitter cold to help build the ice, but so far the weather has been more than agreeable.”
Morgia said that keeping the ice rink up and running requires the tireless efforts of a maintenance crew.
“The behind-the-scenes activities of setting up, maintaining and running an ice rink is quite an operation,” she said. “Many mornings, while most of us are just waking up, the staff has been on site for an hour or two prepping the ice for the day.”
Recently, the garrison command team stopped by the ice rink to thank some of people who support ice rink operations and to present them with challenge coins.
“Your work is really making a huge impact to the installation,” said Eric Wagenaar, deputy to the garrison commander. “There’s no doubt, this is hard work and we appreciate what you are doing. It just makes my heart warm every time I come out here and see a little child and father passing a hockey puck around, and families getting the kids out of the house.”
The skating rink is open, weather permitting, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
For those who prefer flatter footwear for outdoor fun, FMWR will host a Snowshoeing Hike from 8 a.m. to noon on Feb. 13. For details, call (315) 772-8222.
Fort Drum Sports, Fitness and Aquatics staff will host their first Snowshoe Run at Remington Park, from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 20, free and open to all DoD ID cardholders.
Participants must register at Magrath Sports Complex by Feb. 16. Snowshoes are available to rent at Outdoor Recreation. For details, call (315) 772-6663.