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Evergreen Chamber taking over Skate the Lake

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Polar Plunge, youth pond hockey tourney canceled

By Deb Hurley Brobst

New Year’s activities at Evergreen Lake will see big changes this year.

Skate the Lake on New Year’s Eve now will be operated by the Evergreen Area Chamber of Commerce rather than Drive Smart, which conceived of and ran the non-alcoholic family friendly event for more than 20 years.

In addition, the New Year’s Day Polar Plunge and the youth pond hockey tournament on New Year’s Eve, also run by Drive Smart, have been canceled.

“We are honored as the Evergreen chamber to be in charge of Skate the Lake for this year and going forward,” chamber president Betsy Hays said. “When Drive Smart asked if we would be willing to take over stewardship of the event, I said ‘yes’ because I think that Skate the Lake is one of our most important community events.”

Amy Nichols, executive director of Drive Smart, said: “It was a really tough decision. We’ve been struggling with this decision for months, but we decided to focus on our mission and growing our programs. We owe that to our stakeholders to increase the scope and impact of our program.”

She said the New Year’s events took several months of planning, taking away from Drive Smart’s programs to help people, especially teens, drive safely.

Skate the Lake

The event this year will run from 6 to 10 p.m. with only one fireworks show at 8 p.m. Tickets — which aren’t on sale yet —will be $20 in advance or $35 at the door.

Hays said Skate the Lake will end at 10 p.m. rather than the traditional midnight to give families a chance to visit local restaurants to continue New Year’s festivities.

She promises there will be a Plan B and even a Plan C, so the event will go on even if ice on the lake is not thick enough. Skate the Lake was canceled in 2016 because of thin ice.

In years past, proceeds went to Drive Smart for its programs. Now, proceeds will go both to Drive Smart and the Evergreen Park & Recreation District’s foundation called Active for All.

Active for All, according to EPRD executive director Ellen O’Connor, is a nonprofit that supports the district, including purchasing equipment and providing financial assistance to participants who can’t afford rec district programs.

Youth hockey tournament

The youth hockey tournament had become problematic, Nichols said, because of tenuous ice conditions at Evergreen Lake in the last few years.

“Youth hockey teams have a very tight schedule and a short window of time, where they can do something like the pond hockey tournament for fun,” Nichols said. “With the ice not freezing early enough, teams have been reluctant to sign up and commit when there are other things out there. It’s been tough for them and tough for us.”

Polar Plunge

Nichols said the staff looked at everything Drive Smart did and its relation to the organization’s mission.

“This was another really tough one,” Nichols said. “It is such a fun event, but we determined among all of us that it was not an efficient use of our time and fundraising efforts. With the amount of work and the proceeds, we needed to make a business decision.”

The first Polar Plunge was on Jan. 1, 2008, and it has grown in participants yearly. It was canceled in 2017 because of poor ice conditions and rescheduled for February, but canceled again.

O’Connor said EPRD was part of the conversation to cancel the Polar Plunge because proceeds went to the INSPIRE special needs program. Losing the event as a fundraiser won’t impact the program, she added.

“I’ve been to every Polar Plunge,” O’Connor said. “It’s an amazing event. But to be honest, it created a logistical issue afterward with a hole in the ice and people skating.”

Drive Smart

Nichols said Drive Smart has two goals this year: to be part of a grassroots effort to get the Colorado legislature to pass a primary seatbelt law, and to educate teen drivers and their parents about the graduated driver’s license law that delineates which passengers are allowed with new drivers.

Both, she said, will save lives on the road.

The law would allow police to pull someone over and issue tickets to those not wearing seatbelts. Currently, the law doesn’t allow no seatbelts to be the primary reason for law enforcement to stop a vehicle.

Contact Deb Hurley Brobst at deb@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1041.