Hockey grandmas rally to save rink at Lower Chester ParkThe outdoor hockey rink where future U.S. Olympian and NHL star Tommy Williams played while growing up is thought to be in danger of being demolished. But not if the four grandmas have anything to say about it.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
The outdoor hockey rink where future U.S. Olympian and NHL star Tommy Williams played while growing up is thought to be in danger of being demolished.
But not if the four grandmas have anything to say about it.
The four grandmas — Beverly Berntson, Mabel Galvin, Marge Shoots and Dianna Storms — organized a neighborhood gathering at Lower Chester Park on Saturday afternoon to raise the community’s awareness about the threat to the rink and the nearby warming house.
Shoots, 62, is bringing up her great-grandchildren in a big, traditional-style house across the street from the park, which is at 15th Avenue East and Fifth Street in Duluth. The children are the sixth generation of the Williams family to live in the Lower Chester neighborhood. The rink is named after Shoots’ father, Rip Williams. Her brother Tommy played 16 years in the NHL, recording 430 points. Another brother, Butch, also played in the NHL and coaches junior hockey in Duluth. One of his teams volunteered to maintain the rink this winter.
But it’s not certain how long the rink will be there.
“We learned that the whole complex is scheduled to be demolished,” Berntson told the gathering of a few dozen people. “While the four grandmas brought this event about … we’re not the likely leaders in this effort (to save the rink). … The opportunity is here, but the commitment has to come from you.”
Deb Kohs, who has lived in the neighborhood for two years, was the first to sign a petition to save the rink and the first to sign a volunteer sheet. She has two children, ages 9 and 11. “They’d love to see hockey stay here,” she said.
Although the park belongs to the city, the facilities have been leased to Friends of the Park, a community organization. The Friends group has subleased parts of the park to other groups. Seeds of Success, a Community Action Program, planted a community garden. An inline skating hockey group used the rink during the summer.
But the grandmas became concerned when they heard that the Friends would like to tear down the rink and replace it with a greenhouse.
“Nobody talked to us in the neighborhood about this,” Storms said.
Susie Darley-Hill, a Friends of the Parks member who lives in the neighborhood, said community involvement makes a difference. “Volunteers have really taken ownership of their city parks, which obviously sends signals to the city,” she said.
City councilors Sharla Gardner and Dan Hartman, both of whom live nearby, attended the event. Gardner told the group it was important they make their concerns known to the Parks and Recreation Commission.
The grandmas have staked out their position. “Once you’re a hockey mom, you’re always a hockey mom,” Storms said.