Skating champions (left to right) Gerry Scott, Ken Bartholomew, and Bob Dokken watch Franklin Co-op races at Powderhorn Lake (1947). Minneapolis Collection, Uncat Photo Lakes: Powderhorn Lake
Last week, we heard that the Minneapolis Park Board was not going to open the ice skating rink in Powderhorn Park this winter due to budget problems. This is a rink with a rich skating history, including renowned speed skating competitions. We have lived in Powderhorn Park for almost 11 years and ice skating has become part of our family's history as well. Miguel learned to skate on that rink and Zeca took her first tentative strides there last winter. We go skating with our friends but we also share laughs with complete strangers as we all slip, slide and fall. Skating at Powderhorn always reminds me of the blessings of living in the city and this particular neighborhood.
When we heard the news about the rink, Miguel was outraged and energized. He wanted to call all of our friends to tell them about the issue. He wanted to sign the petition and make signs in protest. I was deeply saddened at the thought of losing the ice rink but, honestly, felt that nothing would save it anyway. Cynicism is insidious. The days passed and we had not signed the petition. We had not emailed the park board. We had not done a single thing. The meeting regarding the budget proposal was scheduled for Wednesday night and there was going to be an opportunity for people to speak to the board regarding their concerns. I didn't want to go to the meeting and I made a lot of excuses...Luisa was out of town, Zeca was sick, it would be too complicated to take Miguel to the meeting. When my friend, Kristin, stepped up and said that she would come over to watch Zeca. I decided to go. There were far nobler reasons for me to make the effort but, in that moment, I decided to go simply for Miguel. I am so happy that I did.
Miguel told me that he didn't think he could speak in front of all of those people but I signed us up to speak just to keep the option open. As people began to speak against the fee increases, to plead for a park building and programs, I could see Miguel taking it all in and realizing that there was more to all of this than the ice rink. When our names were announced as the next speakers, Miguel told me, "I want to speak. I want to do it myself." He strode to the microphone, adjusted it carefully, put his hands in his pockets and spoke from his heart. He talked about the fact that he has skated on that lake since he was 3. He talked about the fact that people shouldn't have to get in their cars and drive across the city to be able to skate. He talked about the fact that people should be able to have free access to skates and a rink. I nearly burst into tears as he spoke. I was so proud of him but, more than anything, I was inspired by him. I remembered how empowering it is to challenge decisions that feel wrong. I remembered what it feels like to believe that your actions can make a difference. It was an awakening.
Yesterday, we heard that our ice rink has been given a reprieve. When I picked Miguel up from school, I gave him the good news and he smiled and asked, "What about East Phillips? Did they get their park building?" I told him that they did. We walked to the car and he began singing a song that he learned at school, "We can make a difference, kids can make a difference, we can make a difference, turn the world around..." There is much more to be done...I'm ready now.
For more pictures of skating at Powderhorn, check out the Minnesota Historical Society link here.