People loved skating in Cobbs Hills Park in Rochester. Why it’s been gone for 30+ years

Cobbs Hill Park provided a winter wonderland for ice skaters in Rochester for much of the 20th century as home to one of two natural rinks the city maintained.

Skaters by the hundreds simultaneously cascaded across the frozen Lake Riley — actually, a pond — and before that, an area called the Eastern Widewaters. The city’s other natural rink, at Maplewood Park, was much smaller than at Cobbs Hill, which first hosted citywide skating championships around the time World War I started.

The city began operating artificial rinks for skating in the 1950s, as it still does today. By the 1980s, indoor rinks became all the rage. To purists, though, there’s no comparison to the way skating used to be at Cobbs Hill — outdoors and on a frozen natural body of water.

Patti Singer wrote of the appeal in a 1994 Democrat and Chronicle story, after Lake Riley had already been closed to skaters.

“The biggest difference between skating at an indoor rink and on a pond is the difference between driving the expressway at rush hour and traveling a country road,” Singer wrote. “Skating outdoors provides the luxury of enjoying the surroundings — the color of the sky, how clean everything smells. The noise of children is muffled by the snow; skating alone, the silence can be so loud.”

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