Breitung Township DPW crews try to maintain ice rinks despite inconsistent weather

The beginning of January brought unseasonable warm temperatures. Now, temperatures drop below zero.
A two-person crew can spray enough water for a thin layer on the ice in 10 minutes.
A two-person crew can spray enough water for a thin layer on the ice in 10 minutes.(WLUC)
Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 3:01 PM EST
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QUINNESEC, Mich. (WLUC) - Outdoor ice skating is one of the many activities we get to enjoy during the U.P. winter. However, warmer than usual recent temperatures at the beginning of the month have made maintaining ice rinks difficult.

Almost four times a day, crews from the Breitung Township Department of Public Works (DPW) spray water on two ice rinks in the township. Going over the rink multiple times compared to once creates better conditions.

“You don’t want to put too much water down at once. It will end up causing pockets and a lot of times you will get heat coming up from the ground,” said Jay Davis, Breitung Township DPW superintendent. “Putting a thin layer on at a time gives the water a chance to settle and freeze well, making it a better base layer of ice.”

Davis said the ice rink in Quinnesec and East Kingsford is only about two inches thick. This is because of unseasonable warm temperatures at the beginning of January.

“We struggled to build the ice rink. Now with the cold weather coming in, we are looking pretty good,” Davis said.

On Tuesday however, it was below zero degrees around sunrise. If it is too cold, the water might freeze in the pipes, or staff members could get injured.

“If it stays 27 degrees or below and above zero degrees, that is ideal conditions,” Davis said.

Davis said the ice rinks in Breitung Township used to be overseen by Mary Dixon for many years. After her passing last year, the township is back to having a consistent schedule for the ice rink.

“Filling her shoes is going to be the biggest thing in the world,” Davis said. “I don’t think it will ever be done. She loved all the kids here dearly and took care of the place for many, many years. We’ll miss Mrs. Mary Dixon.”

The ice rink is open daily for the community to use. The township offers free skate rentals from 3 p.m. CT to 8 p.m. CT on the weekdays, noon to 8 p.m. CT on Saturday,s and noon to 5 p.m. CT on Sundays.