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Rink-ing in the season

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune The annual Ashland Rotary Centennial Ice Rink is scheduled to open Saturday after not opening last year due to the pandemic.
A year after skaters were left feeling all wet last year, Ashland’s annual tradition returns Saturday

ASHLAND — After a year hiatus, the Ashland Rotary Centennial Ice Rink is set to open Saturday.

Recreation Manager Lonny Flora said given the impact of the pandemic on the community’s mental and physical health, opening the ice rink supports Ashland Parks and Recreation’s effort to continue offering places for community members to “find enjoyment and connection after shutdowns and isolation” this holiday season.

The ice rink is scheduled to open Nov. 20 with morning adult hockey skate, all ages casual hockey skate, and an evening recreational skate surrounded by downtown holiday lights, just days after the Chamber of Commerce Festival of Light launch Nov. 18. Free open skate begins Monday, according to the November ice rink schedule.

The outdoor rink, at 95 Winburn Way across from the Lithia Park playground, is slated to remain open until Feb. 21, 2022.

Concessions will not be offered this year. Visitors can bring snacks and beverages for consumption outside the rink. All visitors 2 and older are required to wear a mask covering the nose and mouth at the rink, per Oregon Health Authority mandates for outdoor public spaces.

Before each trip to the ice rink, visitors are encouraged to visit ashland.or.us/IceRink to check for changes to scheduling, lessons, programs and participation requirements.

“We want to make sure you are prepared to visit the rink and get the most enjoyment out of your experience,” Flora said. “We can’t emphasize enough to check the schedule before coming out to the rink for every visit, as schedules can change daily, especially around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.”

“While the rink is an outdoor venue, the dynamics of public skating sessions and having a variety of people with different skating abilities on the ice at the same time, we cannot guarantee that groups will maintain six feet of distance from each other at all times,” Flora said.

Ice rink staff will monitor skate sessions to determine whether capacity reaches a point that skaters cannot maintain six feet of distance from other groups without difficulty, in which case the session will close, he said. A specific capacity limit has not been established.

“The example I like to give is 50 10-year-olds on the ice can look a lot different than 50 adults skating, so we will be keeping the community’s safety in mind at all times,” Flora said.

The ice rink did not open as planned last winter due to health concerns associated with the pandemic. Jackson County was in the “extreme risk” category for COVID-19 spread at the time the decision was made.

According to the state, Jackson County’s risk level Wednesday was “high,” and the possibility that unforeseen public health circumstances could impact the rink this season persists.

“It is a possibility that we are aware of,” Flora said. “If that decision is made, we will have to accept it and continue to do our best to meet the community’s needs however we can.”

Reach reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497.