With overnight temperatures in Chico dropping into the low-20s, the fountain in City Plaza may be turning into an accidental skating rink after the sun sets. During the summer, the fountain is a ground-level delight for children and adults to splash in, but it may be a potential safety hazard when the thermometer drops below 32º.
By its very nature, the fountain creates a wet surface that doesn’t drain completely when it is shut off at night. The remaining water freezes in the evening’s chill.
It’s hard to say how big of deal it is. When I walked across City Plaza to head home after an early Tuesday meal, there were only a few patches of ice over the fountain. I stepped on a few patches to glide along on the friction-reduced ice, but they ended quickly.
One element that may reduce the patches is the roughened surface caused by what appears to be pebbles and textured concrete.
It’s fun to shuffle along and pretend I’m ice skating, but I am concerned some reckless person may slip and injure themselves. It’s possible people may not notice that the fountain has frozen — at night, the plaza is often illuminated solely by street lights (and during December by the Community Tree).
I noticed this issue a couple of years ago. I called the police to let them know about the safety concern. They indifferently brushed the matter off, suggesting that I call the city’s blandly-named General Services Department the following morning. I never did pursue the matter.
This seems to be an issue that comes up just once or twice a year, but the early cold snap has piqued my curiosity.
Speaking of skating rinks, seeing the ice in the center of City Plaza reminded me of all the cities that have outdoor rinks in the winter. I’ve seen setups in colder cities, like Salt Lake City, Chicago and New York City, but they’ve also cropped up in warmer places like Sacramento and San Diego.
It might be cool to put a small rink in the center of Chico City Plaza for a few weeks every year. By my eye, an oval stretching about a half-block might be possible in the shadow of the Community Tree.
It’s unlikely for a number of reasons — including cost and the generally warm temperatures — but it would definitely add a strong touch of winter fun to our city (especially because we don’t currently have any ice rinks at all).
Photo: Chico City Plaza’s fountain is depicted in part of a photomontage I created over the summer. I find it funny how subjects show up multiple times.