By Hannah Heimbuch
As local kids enjoy their time away from school this holiday season, they can add one more thing to that very important to do list: head for Beluga Lake and strap on some skates.
Several local snowplow contractors have volunteered to keep a space on the northwest side of the lake clear for skaters this winter.
For the Lowe family, this is good news indeed.
“I would love to have an outdoor space for skating,” said Vicki Lowe, a member of the Homer women’s hockey team. “While the rink provides great opportunities to skate, Beluga Lake provides the added benefits of fresh air and sun.”
The younger Lowe skaters second that.
“It would be fun to have a place on Beluga Lake to play and skate,” said Sawyer, 9. His 12-year-old brother Lee said he also wouldn’t mind having a place to head after school for some pond hockey and extra skate time.
Making that kind of thing possible is exactly the goal, said Corbin Arno, who is joining a handful of other snowplow operators to keep that space snow-free.
“It’s an inexpensive sport and a fun activity the whole family can go do,” Arno said. “Get out and enjoy the skating rink out there. If we get one person out there that’ll make it all worth it.”
The decision to clear a space wasn’t a random one. It’s partly in response to a recent lawsuit that freed the City of Homer of the responsibility of snow duty on the lake.
When Homer’s Tony Neal donated a parcel of lakeside parkland to Homer three decades ago, he added a stipulation that a space be kept clear and accessible for community ice skating. That part of the plan wasn’t happening, so he filed a lawsuit in an effort to enforce the work.
In June, a judge ruled in favor of the city. While the stipulation was written on the original paperwork surrounding the donation, it seems that the part about snow clearing was handwritten and signed by both parties after the city council agreed to the main resolution.
This shrugging off of responsibility is a shame, said Arno, and he hopes the goodwill effort put forth by this group of local contractors will be a message both to the city and its residents.
“I took it upon myself to start plowing it and keep it opened up because that was part of the deal,” he said. “I contacted several of the plow contractors around town and said hey, let’s take care of this.”
Thus far they’ve been supportive and happy to step up to the job, he said.
“I’m hoping that the citizens realize that our city is failing the citizens of Homer, wasting our tax money on a lawsuit when they’re obligated to (clear) it,” Arno said. It suggests a disturbing trend of failing to listen to community voice, he said. “It goes all the way back to the food tax. I mean how many times do we have to vote on that to get the point across?”
When the snow flies, Arno and the other drivers will make regular stops lakeside during their plow runs. Keeping the snow and access area clear is the big job, but ideally a little more maintenance would give it that extra shine.
“If it was wet mopped it would make it perfect,” Arno said. “Sometimes you get a little bit of a crust and stuff on it.”
Regardless of the city’s reaction, Arno hopes to see kids and families on the lake, enjoying themselves and the park space donated to them. And he’ll be one of them.
“My kids love to skate,” he said. “It’s a great thing for kids to get outside and do.”
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