One new set of lights in Kenai isn't just here for the holiday season.
City Manager Rick Koch said the lights are hung at the pond by Daubenspeck Family Park, and the city's parks and recreation director, Bob Frates, said a section of ice is cleared for skaters -- and plenty thick.
"We've got ample ice," said Frates.
In a few weeks, some of that ice will be chopped up for the central Peninsula's polar plunge.
Organizer Kelly Wolf said not everyone has to jump in the pond for the plunge this year.
In additional to the traditional plunge, there will be dry plunge. Participants will stand in a three-sided ice enclosure and have a photo taken with their head sticking out. As with the normal plunge, plungers raise pledges to participate in the Jan. 15 event. A photo from the dry plunge requires $50 in pledges; a T-shirt from the wet plunge requires $100. Those pledges go toward four local organizations: the Youth Restoration Corps, Bridge Community Resource Network, the Kenai Peninsula Native Youth Olympic Wolf Pack team, and Friends of Athletes with Disabilities.
Wolf said the dry plunge was added to accommodate athletes who can't safely plunge into the frigid pond.
"We have a few athletes who really would like to do something," Wolf said. This way they can raise pledges and take the plunge -- without getting drenched.
The pond isn't the only progress the city has made at the new park on Marathon Road, which was named in September.
At the last regular city council meeting of 2010, the council voted to award a contract for a vaulted-toilet bathroom at the park.
Cornerstone Equipment rentals was the low-bidder for a combination project including that bathroom, plus bathrooms on the North Shore.
And local rotarians poured slabs for the picnic areas they are building long before the pond was iced over. Rotarian Randy Daly said the rotary finished the slabs this summer, but didn't get to put the picnic structures up on the grassy knoll above the pond before winter began.
Koch said there's more work to come this spring.
"Once the frost gets out of the ground, the city can get to work and the rotary can get to work," he said.
The rotary will probably be done with their 16 by 20-foot picnic shelters by June. Daly said the trusses are already built, and the club will have help from Interact, a high school club sponsored by Rotary, in finishing up the construction. Then they'll work on laying down top soil and seed and developing a walking trail around the perimeter of the park, Daly said.
Cornerstone will wait to carry out their contract until the ground thaws, Koch said.
The city also plans to build a larger shelter with a fireplace, although Koch said whether that happened in summer 2011 or 2012 will depend on how the city's budget looks. And depending on whether or not the state gives them the go-ahead, a local nonprofit may have youth put in some trails this summer, Koch said.
In the meantime, the pond is the focus of the park. Although there hasn't been much skating traffic yet, the park will have a lot of visitors for the plunge. More than forty people are signed up, because they know the money they raise helps their neighbors, Wolf said. "The money stays here locally."
Molly Dischner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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