Coincidentally, a Castle Valley resident posted a comment on the Castle Valley Facebook page stating: “I think it would be amazing if Castle Valley used some of our tax dollars and made a residents-only ice rink. Has this ever been considered?” Another resident responded saying: “We used to skate on the irrigation pond, but it hasn’t frozen over in years.” The response: “Wow, want to make another one?” “Yes! Assuming there was water left in the pond this year.”
The last time I checked the irrigation pond, which is known as the Quakie Shake Pond, there was plenty of water and looked like there was a solid covering of ice over it ready to clear the snow and go skating. The Quakie Shake Pond got its name when a local businessman bought shingle-making equipment from a Moab business and relocated it to BLM land next to the irrigation pond. The business operated several years as the Quakie Shake Factory and specialized in making taper-sawn aspen shakes from trees that were located on the La Sal Mountains. The shingles were shipped mostly for the California market, but some were also shipped to other western states while others were used locally, including some on my own home. After a devastating fire in Northern California during the 1980s, the State of California banned the use of wood shake shingles, which caused the Quakie Shake Factory to lose business and eventually close. I understand the equipment is still being used somewhere in Utah to make aspen cooling pads for evaporative coolers.
The pond itself was built in the early 1970s when the DayStar Adventist Academy, formerly the Castle Valley Institute, switched from flood irrigation to a pressurized pivot sprinkler system. The school’s farm formulated an arrangement with the BLM to build the pond then they constructed a 12-inch pipe from the pond to the farm to operate their irrigation system.
The pond created an excellent source for recreation in the form of swimming in the summer and skating in the winter when the weather was cold enough. The DayStar Academy has several ponds on the farm that are a little smaller and more convenient for the students and where the retro picture was taken 36 years ago. There is also a pond on a neighboring ranch that will probably freeze most years.
There used to be an old ranch catch pond on Buchanan Lane that would fill with water from late fall rains some years. The last time it was used for skating was when two heavy rainstorms near the end of October, 2005 deposited several inches of water in the pond, which was located at 157 Buchanan Lane. A cold snap, where the temperatures hovered around zero at night and barely above freezing during the day, froze the water in the pond to solid ice. The next weekend, several neighbors descended on the half-acre pond and cleared some of the protruding weeds and scraped, broomed and added another 400 gallons of water to the ice to create a mirror-like surface, perfect for skating. Many people were seen the remainder of the weekend enjoying the large, natural skating rink. I was there several nights when many residents spent their evenings skating around the pond and warming up next to a roaring fire and sipping hot chocolate. I took a picture of three other women, which appeared in the Dec. 15, 2005 issue of The Times-Independent. They were Jennifer Redding, Trish Hawkins and her mother, Ursula, shown skating across the surface of that pond.
But the following October, heavy rains and water from Placer Creek filled the pond to over-flowing, causing damage to nearby property. The fire department set up a pump to help lower the water level but heavy rains later in the evening sent water 18 inches deep flowing over the banks, damaging vehicles, a travel trailer and equipment with mud and water. As heavy rains continued the following evening, water overflowed the banks again despite lowering the water from the previous level, and sandbags were placed around the pond to ease the problem. The dam of that pond was taken out by a bulldozer the following year as a precaution against further flooding problems.
Castle Valley does have a history of ice-skating thanks to ingenuity and a willingness to chip in and get things done. Someone else on Facebook suggested, “the basketball court could be made into a rink with a little innovation.” That’s something to think about for those who really like to ice skate.
Editor’s note: When the ice-skating retro photo was published two weeks ago, The Times-Independent received a couple of different responses identifying the pond. One person was certain that it was taken on a Moab Golf Course pond. But given Ron Drake’s memory and newspaper clippings, we are certain the photograph was taken in Castle Valley.