South Jersey Climate News

South Jersey Climate News

South Jersey Climate News

Dr. Nicole Vaughn (second from right), Rowan Engineering without Borders and Cooper Medical Students stands at a community garden, Cooper Sprouts in Camden, N.J. (Photo: Essence Holman / South Jersey Climate News)
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Your grandparents ice skated outdoors. Your grandchildren probably won’t.

As New Jersey winters grow warmer and wetter, outdoor ice skating and pond hockey are becoming activities of the past.
Undated+photo+of+ice+skaters+on+Union+Lake+near+Millville+in+Cumberland+County%2C+NJ.+Photo+courtesy+of+Joann+and+Dale+Wettstein+collection.
Undated photo of ice skaters on Union Lake near Millville in Cumberland County, NJ. Photo courtesy of Joann and Dale Wettstein collection.
A warm – and quiet – Friday night in February at Cooper River Ice Skating Rink in Cherry Hill. (Tyler Delpercio)

A Friday night in February is the perfect time to go to an outdoor skating rink –unless the high temperature hits 57 degrees, as it did recently in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

As a result, the outdoor Cooper River Ice Skating Rink was quiet. No crowds. Lots of parking. Just a handful of families skating around and the employees trying to keep the ice from turning into a lake.

“I worry about the integrity of the ice on days like today,” said Anthony Gambino, a 28-year-old Zamboni driver. “When I got here [at 4 pm], there was already water on the ice, which gets sucked up by the Zamboni, but it can make the rink softer and lead to traction problems and puddles.”

Around 8:30 pm, with temperatures still hovering around 48 degrees, skaters were called off the ice so Gambino could go around and firm it up so it didn’t feel like “walking through mud.”

As the average winter temperatures rise, outdoor ice skating is becoming less popular than in the past.

In 2021, 9.48 million people laced up the skates, two million fewer than a decade before.

And as cold streaks – multiple days with below normal temperatures – get shorter, local ponds and lakes aren’t freezing hard enough to support skaters or hockey players.

The average winter temperature in Atlantic City has increased 7 degrees since 1970. (Graphic: Climate Central)

“I used to go all the time when I was 10,” said Mike Hullihan, a 23-year-old skater at the Cooper River Rink who came with a group of friends. “There’s a pond around the corner from me that used to freeze over all the time too where me and my buddies would go and play hockey, but now it only freezes over enough to support the average human’s body weight every few years.”

Increased precipitation is another issue that outdoor rinks have had to deal with. According to nj.gov, the annual precipitation in New Jersey has been eight percent above average during the last decade.

“Just two inches of rain messes the ice up,” Gambino said. 

As a result, more local towns and parks are installing outdoor roller rinks, and indoor ice rinks are growing in size and scope.

Indoor skating facilities like Hollydell Ice Arena that can offer year-around activities regardless of weather are growing in size and popularity. (Photo via Hollydell Ice Arena)

For example in South Jersey, the Hollydell Ice Arena complex in Sewell and the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees offer multiple rinks for ice skating, hockey, figure skating, tournaments, summer camps and year-around programming.

As climate change continues, the lure of outdoor ice skating might be nostalgia for winters past.

“I still try and get out once a year,” Hullihan said on the warm February night at Cooper River Rink. “They do a good job, you can’t really tell. At least, tonight you couldn’t.”

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About the Contributor
Tyler Delpercio, Writer
Hello! My name is Tyler Delpercio and I am a junior double major (Sports Communication and Media & Journalism) at Rowan University. I'm a part of the editorial staff for South Jersey Climate News. Outside of academics, I have a very strong passion for sports. I also enjoy going to the gym running outside when the weather is nice enough!
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