by Tim Mowry
FAIRBANKS — It’s a sign that spring is not quite here yet.
Thanks to what has been a much-colder-than-normal March, the Ice Alaska ice park at the end of Phillips Field Road will stay open until April 1, a week longer than was planned. The ice park was originally scheduled to close on Sunday.
The week-long extension is a result of both the weather and public demand, said Dick Brickley, chairman of Ice Alaska.
“We’ve had numerous requests to stay open, including some from Anchorage,” he said. “So we said, as long as it’s safe and it still looks good, we’ll keep it open for another week.”
The cool temperatures have preserved the park’s 350 sculptures, as well as the slides and mazes in the kids park, which also will remain open.
“The sculptures are in great shape,” Brickley said. “We encourage people to come out and enjoy it.”
The ice park hours will remain the same — 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. — and season passes will be honored for the extended opening.
The temperature has not hit the freezing mark since the ice park opened on Feb. 28, though the National Weather Service said that could change by the middle of next week.
Through the first three weeks of March, the average temperature of minus 1 degree at Fairbanks International Airport was 9.5 degrees colder than normal, according to a statement released by the weather service on Thursday.
To date, it has been the coldest start to March since 2007 and the third-coldest start to March in the past 40 years.
The high temperature for the month so far was 25 degrees on March 6 and 7, the only two days of the month that were warmer than normal.
There have been eight nights this month with a low temperature of 20 below or colder, which is well above the average of three nights.
“This is the best year we’ve ever had,” Brickley said of the cool weather. “The single-block (sculptures) will last until the middle of June back in the trees.”
Though it means a delayed spring, the extended season is a blessing of sorts in that Ethel Stoneman, an Ice Alaska board member who missed this year’s event because she had to go Outside for cancer treatment, will get to see what she missed. Stoneman, who normally runs the front ticket booth at the ice park, is due back in town on Monday, Brickley said.