LBWA–Freeze Frame

Editor’s Note: This column, “LBWA” (Leadership By Wandering Around), is based on the premise that, in order to find out what’s going on in the field, a parks and rec leader has to leave his or her desk and “wander around” the area of operations, talk to people, ask questions, and kick around ideas with the individuals in the thick of delivering services to the public. So the author will bring up issues and ask the leaders among the readership to share their knowledge and experiences. 

When to winterize? That is a question many parks and rec maintenance professionals ask almost daily as the fall breezes hint at the upcoming colder weather.

It’s a conundrum, really, a catch-22. If you take all the normal precautions—close outdoor facilities, drain the water, put antifreeze in the pipes, and turn on the heaters—and the temperatures remain in the 60s, you look like Chicken Little. If you don’t, and everything freezes, you’re left with frozen egg on your face as pipes burst and facilities flood.

An old axiom suggests that if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute and it will change. That may be an extreme analysis, but I think most people will acknowledge that winter-temperature

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / southpaw3

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / southpaw3

patterns have generally trended to the warmer side in the past few years. Places that normally experience cold temperatures in October or November have been basking in 70-degree temps well into traditionally cold months.

This makes the decision to winterize even more challenging. Winterizing, like so many other aspects of parks and recreation, is a process that varies depending on where in the world you live.

A Regional Issue

In colder climates, like in the states along the U.S./Canadian border, winter makes itself apparent; maintenance pros generally know that when the first cool winds blow in from the Northwest, it’s time to break out the antifreeze.

“We usually start to winterize our facilities by mid-October,” comments Greg Behling, Operations Ranger for Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources’ CopperFallsState   Park work unit. His territory covers nearly 8,000 acres, which include many different outdoor facilities in northern Wisconsin, not far from the shores of Lake Superior.

“We host a marathon the second week in October, and generally start closing things down after that,” he says. In his neck of the woods, winterizing means not only draining a few lines and adding antifreeze, but actually disassembling fixtures, taking valves out, and soaking them in antifreeze. “We have to make sure pretty much every drop of water is out of our lines,” he explains.

Behling acknowledges that the weather patterns have changed. “The last few falls, we’ve had warming weather later into the fall, less

The greatest chore for people living in “transitional” areas, where winter hides around the corner waiting to attack the unprepared maintenance pros, is anticipating when cold weather will start and end. © Can Stock Photo Inc. / snehitdesign

The greatest chore for people

living in “transitional” areas, where

winter hides around the corner waiting

to attack the unprepared maintenance

pros, is anticipating when cold weather

will start and end.

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / snehitdesign

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