Rotary donates $50,000 to ice rink

ASHLAND — The Ashland Rotary Club has agreed to give $50,000 to the city for the Darex Family Ice Rink in Lithia Park.

The club unanimously approved the gift at its Thursday meeting, said Michael Donovan, club president.

"Ashland Rotary Club sees this as a way to give back to the community," Donovan said. "We hope this will be the lead gift to leverage greater participation from other members of the community."

The city's Parks and Recreation Commission must formally accept the gift. The commission will consider the matter, along with a new name for the rink, at its meeting on Monday.

If the commission accepts the gift, the rink will become the "Ashland Rotary Centennial Ice Rink."

The new name will acknowledge both the centennial of the Ashland Rotary Club and Lithia Park.

Donovan said the decision to support the ice rink for the club's centennial project came after an earlier project to extend the Bear Creek Greenway to North Mountain Park failed a few years ago.

Parks Commission Chairman Mike Gardiner said the gift comes at an opportune time.

"We had a certain amount of money available for the project, but we really needed to get over the hump," he said.

Since the rink was built in 1996, its name has been associated with Darex, a company founded by Richard Bernard and his son, Dave, in 1973. The Bernards moved to Ashland in 1979 from the Midwest, where they had skated during the region's cold winters. They made a $55,000 gift during the campaign to build the rink.

The family supports the gift and name change.

"I'm excited for the rink, that it's getting a needed upgrade and that the Rotary is willing to give it that push," Dave Bernard said.

Opening day for the rink likely has been pushed back to January due to delays in manufacturing of parts, said Don Robertson, parks and recreation director. The parks department cannot pour concrete for the rink until after Thanksgiving, when they receive the pipe that transports the coolant. The concrete must then cure for 30 days before any ice can be formed on top of it.

"One way or another we will have ice," he said.

The project will cost about $175,000 in all, Robertson said. It will include cooling coils embedded in the concrete to replace cooling mats that had to be put down every fall and taken up every spring. The new process will save approximately $10,000 per year in setup costs, he said.

The parks department also would like to add rest rooms, a warming hut and a permanent skate-rental facility at a later date, Robertson said.

A gift catalogue for the Ashland Parks Foundation, prominently featuring the ice rink fundraiser, will be available Dec. 13 at the Lithia Park centennial celebration, he said.

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