SALAMANCA - Snow enthusiasts have had a great start for skiing and snowboarding, but news is also looking solid for another group of cold-weather lovers. If the weather cooperates, the Bill Flanigan Ice Pond in Salamanca will be opening up for the first time in three years.
Poor weather conditions have been blamed for the facility's lack of operation in previous years, but Patrick Reed, Salamanca public works superintendent, says that will change very soon, if the cold streak continues in the Southern Tier.
Tthe last three winters have been a bit odd, Reed said, creating too warm of a weather component to be able to sustain the temperatures and precipitation needed to produce a good ice surface.
This year, as the pond stands, there is between two and two and a half inches of ice that is being maintained by hand, as the use of machinery is limited to a minimum of four inches, Reed said. The plan is to have a thick enough base, and groomed properly to be able to open in a week to two.
"When we were falling on hard times in the City, the Seneca Nation of Indians gave it a shot to open the pond," Reed said. "They just didn't have the weather cooperating with them to do it. They did everything they could."
The pond was used as a natural ice reservoir for block to be cut from when homes relied on ice boxes, in the days before electric refrigeration. Skating is believed to have started in the 1930s, on the pond. During its heyday, the pond would play host to speed skating races and large groups. Bill Flanigan, the person for which the pond is named, worked at the facility for years, even teaching people how to skate.
The pond is the home to a warming hut that will have refreshments available, as well as house the skates for use on the pond. The skates, according to Reed, will be free of charge for those wanting to come down and glide across a remnant of the region's history. Admission to the facility is also free.
"Come on down and skate and then leave when you have had enough," Reed said.
Reed said the pond could be open before Christmas this year, and may be able to sustain hours of 3-9 p.m. on the weekdays and 1-10 p.m. on weekends. Lights and outdoor sound equipment will make the nights fun for skaters, young and old, from all around the area.