Skaters at Highlands ice rink may need a reservation

Highlands Town Board directed Recreation Director Lester Norris to develop a reservation system for ice skaters in order to safely open up the rink in Highlands September’s monthly meeting on Thursday.

Under Governor Roy Cooper’s implementation of Phase 2.5, Norris said 30 skaters are allowed on the ice at a one time and this would cause a problem over holiday weekends.

“I looked back at our numbers in November and December, and Friday of Thanksgiving for the past three years we’ve averaged around 400 skaters from 1-10 p.m.,” said Norris. “About 325 the following Saturday, so that would definitely be a problem. But we could work on something and come up with a plan for reservations. We would have to do a time limit. A lot of people come out skate 15 minutes and they’re done, yet some stay all day.”

Commissioner Marc Hehn urged Norris to speak with medical officials before making any decisions about opening the rink.

“I would like to see Lester talk with Dr. Baker or Dr. Wheeler about how he plans to handle it and come back next month,” said Hehn. “I really think we should listen to the medical professionals as we talk about events.”

Norris said time is a factor.

“It’s one of those things we have to move forward quick with to get the staff lined up for the season,” said Norris.

The ice rink traditionally opens the second week of November in conjunction with Highlands Food & Wine Festival, but as HFW was cancelled due to COVID-19, Norris suggested opening on the weekend of Nov. 19 and get in a week of skating before crowds arrive for Thanksgiving.

“I don’t have a problem with that,” said Commissioner Buz Dotson.

Mayor Pat Taylor directed Norris to develop a reservation system and bring it back to the Board at next month’s meeting.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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