Godfathers of the ice

Volunteers spread winter warmth for skaters, visitors at Twin Lakes

Posted: Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Juneau's Twin Lakes remain abuzz with play long after summer picnics turn to ice, thanks in part to the weekly efforts of two men.

John Ingalls and Marc Scholten usually get up at 8:30 on weekend mornings to plow snow and create hockey rinks on the lakes. The two have made the lakes accessible.

For people who can skate, they create an arena. For people who cannot skate, Ingalls offers skates he has collected over the years and teaches them. At the intervals between his hockey games, Ingalls skates to beginners to make sure they are fine, or to show them new tricks.

"John gets everybody to skate," said Joyce Levine, who skated recently on Twin Lakes. "He is the godfather of skating in Juneau."

Ingalls and Scholten clear the snow with some extra-wide shovels Ingalls designed and made.

"I prefer to shovel snow rather than work out in the gym," Ingalls said. "It's very beautiful outside."

Twin Lakes are indeed beautiful in the winter. Water bubbles freeze high and low under the surface. Water milfoil, a kind of weed, is trapped beneath, its swinging elegance suspended. The lake has two colors: Ice made of compressed snow is white while ice made of freezing water is black.

Before Treadwell Ice Arena, Ingalls used to go to Harborview Elementary and Capital schools in the pre-dawn hours and spray water to create outdoor ice rinks.

Ingalls and Scholten also make sure skaters and hockey players are warm and energetic. They set up a table with hot chocolate simmering on the stove and hamburgers on the grills. Scholten made a fire ring out of a 55-gallon barrel.

"Skaters could warm up their hands and toes," Scholten said. "But the fire ring rusted out. We don't have it this year."

Scholten said the city could help them by putting lights on the light poles near the lakes so people could skate after dark.

About four years ago, Ingalls held a community party on Twin Lakes. He was inspired by a painting by Pieter Bruegel, a Flemish painter in the 16th century.

"One of his paintings had pictures of children playing hockey with coal," Ingalls said. "I used to watch that painting very often when I was a child and I like the smell of burning coal."

Ingalls then decided to have a Juneau version of Bruegel's painting. With the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council's help, Ingalls gathered coals for hockey games and made Belgian waffles on the ice. He gathered bales of hays for spectators at hockey games and played music from loudspeakers hooked to his truck.

"With only a little bit of effort, you can make many people happy," Ingalls said.

Ingalls said he is doing this partly to make up for his lonely childhood.

"My father had tuberculosis. People didn't want to come to visit us," Ingalls said. "I want to create something for a lot of people. Skating is more social than skiing. I like to talk to people and find out what happened."

Ingalls said he doesn't mind preparing the food or rinks but he hopes it can become a community event with more people involved.

"It would be helpful if people could bring barbecue, charcoal, shovels or spare skates," Ingalls said. "This is something everybody can enjoy."

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.



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