What was it… like three years ago that we began pounding the drum to get skating back on Gala Waters (Hoyt Lake)? Remember the conversations? Recall the frustrations? At one point, this was prime skating in Buffalo, with hundreds of people coming from around the region to enjoy winter at Delaware Park. We’ve seen the old photos… we’ve heard stories about the fun times that were had by all. We’ve also heard horror stories about politicians illegally dumping salt into the lake causing the surface to never again freeze properly. In the end, nobody has skated on Gala Waters at Delaware Park for years, leaving only fond memories to reflect upon.
Last weekend, all of that changed. Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, a few brazen souls took to the ice despite an official organized effort to return skating to the lake. It started with a couple of skaters, a few ‘tweets’ and a bunch of shout-outs on Facebook. Before the end of the weekend came to a close, two makeshift rinks had been cleared and hockey games were in full swing. Since that time, the buzz has grown louder, culminating in a concerted effort to create one large rink. As of today, skaters were showing up with snow throwers, brooms and shovels. That’s when I happened upon the scene. At 2:30pm, the skaters were grilling chicken and listening to music in-between duking it out with each other on a rink that was more than accommodating and pretty darn smooth.
I spoke to a couple of the players who told me that they were having the time of their lives. “The last time that I skated out here,” one player said. “I was about seven years old… that’s how long it’s been. People drive by and see what’s going on… then they come back with skates and a stick. We’ve been out here all day long just enjoying being outdoors in the wintertime.” As I spoke to the players, I noticed a woman and her dog walking across the middle of the lake with a young child on a sled in tow. It was an incredible sight to see – hockey players charging the goalie while sledders used the lake as a means to get to and from the Shakespeare sledding hill. Instead of waiting for the green light, people had taken it upon themselves to reclaim an old winter tradition.
Right or wrong, sometimes we need to take matters into our own hands if we know that it’s the only way to get something done in this city. My hopes are, that ‘the powers that be’ will take notice and take a step towards declaring the skating as an official and legit activity. It appears that there is no reason to disallow public skating on the lake. If these guys (and girls) were to wait for skating to be unveiled as an approved pastime, they would have stood a better chance waiting for hell to freeze over.