Letters | January 27, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - January 27, 2012


Major community effort


The Jan. 13 article by Sue Dremann gave fantastic coverage to Winter Lodge and its more-than-50-year tradition of wonderfully unique outdoor ice skating. The front-page headline "Skating Through Time" with Veronica Weber's photo of the skates of ice skaters momentarily paused gave the program high visibility just as the United States Figure Skating Championships in San Jose did.

The article, however, closed with the possible impression that Winter Club was saved largely through the efforts of Marvin Lee, a longtime attendee, an impression that Mercedes Williams, widow of Winter Club's founder, and Merre Jayne McFate, the rink's former long-term director, have asked me to correct.

When Marvin's effort to get the city to give him a parcel on the edge of the Baylands so he could raise money to build a full-size indoor rink had come to naught, the YMCA's Dave Thornton, attorney Ron Hershburger, land specialist Rick McMichael, banker Roger Smith and I undertook to persuade both Duncan Williams and Dick Peery, owner of the Winter Club site, to give us a chance to save the rustic outdoor rink itself.

Both agreed, with some skepticism. Duncan wasn't sure that we could raise the $50,000 that we needed to continue to operate and Dick thought the city had been inflexible in his attempt to have the city reverse the high-density housing zoning that had forced closure of both the Shell station and the rink. After forming The Trust for Community Skating, we convinced the city to authorize a $25,000 matching grant, and within two months had persuaded hundreds of donors to meet the city's match.

We opened on schedule under the auspices of the YMCA. Over the next year dozens of volunteers including Sheryl Keller, Marilyn Eaton, Lynn Winkle, Sue Kelso, Allan Bell, Bill Rosenberg, Roy Williams, Carol Kraiss and Mark Yost helped manage the program while also gathering enough signatures to qualify a ballot measure that allowed the rink to continue operations in the location it had been for 30 years in exchange for an office building site on Geng Road. The measure passed with overwhelming voter support.

When the YMCA withdrew as sponsor for insurance reasons, Community Skating Inc. was formed to fulfill our commitment to continue the Winter Lodge operation at no cost to the city. For our community-wide effort, the Weekly and the Chamber of Commerce jointly awarded the Trust for Community Skating the 1987 Tall Tree Award.

While article length may not have permitted a detailed history of the events, no story about the Winter Club/Winter Lodge is really complete without acknowledging the community-wide effort that kept and continues to keep outdoor ice skating a Palo Alto treasure.

Jack Morton, founding member

Trust for Community Skating

Community Skating, Inc.

Respect and understanding


It may make sense that the house on Ramona Street is no longer "historic" and for the City Council to grant relief to the owner to do something else. It also makes sense that since the property is part of a larger area of period homes, in a National Register Historic District, that any development — remodel or new house — should respect that setting, that context.

New homes and development on the former Palo Alto Medical Foundation property followed simple design guidelines that make those buildings, which incorporate elements of traditional design and compatible materials, reflect and respect their historic neighbors. (The new homes adjacent to this house are good examples.) The next step for this owner is to select a design professional who understands and respects the context of this setting; designs the building exterior in light of that setting, looks at how other homes and their garages are sited and incorporates whatever other amenities sought by the owner.

The worst thing to happen would be to select a "one-trick" architect to build a look-at-me-I-am-different "modern" facade — thumbing its nose at its neighbors. I would be glad to show anyone these "stand-out" buildings and how out of place and disrespectful they are.

Ken Alsman

Ramona Street

New Palo Alto process


Criticism is often directed toward social media networks. A frenzy of "liking," "friending" and "commenting" interferes with actual communication. Easy online connections, pornography and stimulation protect us from the stressful interactions that are inherent in actual individual and group relationships.

Traditionally, neighborhoods, homes and rooms have confined people both physically and emotionally. In Palo Alto people frequently move in and out, represent diverse cultures and traditions, and are subject to financial strains, layoffs and other difficulties. Relationships with others are essential for psychological well-being, but also difficult to build in our ever-changing multinational community.

A new social media form is emerging that has special potential. Next Door College Terrace enables neighbors to connect in real time and set a stage for the development of a more supportive community. A new form of kinder interaction is evolving through sharing tools, help and support.

Next Door offers a means to take us further along a pathway to the creation of a new "Palo Alto Process." Rather than the usual hostile, isolated and aggressive ways, the means for compassionate and caring community is instilled.

Bette U. Kiernan, MFT

Sherman Avenue

Palo Alto


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