Skating on Thin Ice

I have lived in a 4 season climate my entire life except for one winter when I worked on a kibbutz in Israel. While winter weather certainly has its challenges, it also provides many opportunities to participate in outdoor sports that are simply unavailable without sufficient cold and snow.

For the past 30 winters, I have lived within walking distance of Tenney Park in Madison, Wisconsin. This beautiful park was originally marshland on the outskirts of Madison, when the land was purchased by a local attorney, Daniel Tenney in 1899 for $4,000, in order to build a park, which now includes a beach on Lake Mendota, and a lagoon which is groomed for skating in the winter.

Grooming the lagoon must wait until the ice is thick enough for the Madison Parks’ staff to put heavy equipment on it. During most winters, however, the lagoon freezes without any snow on it and is thick enough for skaters before it is thick enough for heavy equipment.

Such is the case right now, and this weekend, I had the good fortune to enjoy a wonderful skate along with about 100 others.

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Marston Street bridge over the Tenney Park lagoon.

However, skating on thin ice carries its risks. Many years ago, I skated too close to this bridge early in the winter season when no one besides my wife was with me and I broke through the ice. Fortunately, I was able to pull myself out, but I have since learned to wait for others to skate before I do and to avoid skating too close to bridges early in the season as the ice under bridges is not as thick.

Yesterday, I had hoped that my work to remove a dilapidated bridge and boardwalk on Goose Lake, in Adams County, Wisconsin was finally going to come to fruition. As I have written previously, in my role as Chair of the Goose Lake Watershed District, we have contracted to have this work completed this winter. On Monday, our contractor contacted me to let me know that he intended to start work yesterday. However, as I was driving up to meet him, he let me know that the ice was too thin and that his equipment had crashed through the ice, so he would have to wait until the ice was thicker to proceed with the work. Fortunately, he was able to remove his equipment and no one was injured.

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Broken ice near boardwalk on Goose Lake

As I wanted to see what happened, I put on my cross country skis to examine the site as you can see above.

It was a beautiful winter day, so I continued to ski with my dog Luna running along and thought about the lessons learned from skating  on thin ice and how they apply to systems change.

Skating on thin ice and systems change are both risky. They involve pushing the limits of what nature (in the case of ice) or large institutions (e.g., government, corporations) will safely allow. As with any risky ventures, one must exercise sufficient caution to remain safe. However, that does not mean that one cannot take any risks. Rather, one must observe if others have tested the ice or systems first and determine the results. In some cases, one may fall through the ice or get pushed back by the systems. That, however, does not mean giving up. It just means pulling out and waiting until the ice is thick enough or the systems are ready to be changed.

I look forward to many more winters of skating, ice thick enough to complete the demolition and removal of the dilapidated bridge and boardwalk on Goose Lake, and many more ventures changing antiquated systems that are not providing equal rights for all.

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For more information on how Jeff Spitzer-Resnick can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact him by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.

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