Allegheny County’s old ice skates no longer 6 feet under
Allegheny County crews have relocated hundreds of leather and metal corpses from their longtime burial ground at South Park to a new resting place in a landfill.
Officials ordered the exhumation of more than 400 pairs of ice skates this week after they discovered that park employees had for decades been burying them in a mass grave near the maintenance equipment storage area.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Allegheny County parks director Andrew Baechle. “There’s no reason to bury ice skates in the park, and we will not do it again.”
He came across the error several days ago, after he told his staff to clear out old, unusable skates the county formerly rented out to guests at South Park’s ice skating rink. It’s a process the parks department goes through every few years. But instead of throwing them in the garbage, county employees started to bury them, Baechle said.
They told him that was how they had always done it.
A “misguided” foreman — who has since retired, Baechle said — apparently decided in the 1980s that burying old skates was the safest way to dispose of them.
“It’s just really silly to me,” Baechle said. “I don’t know why we just didn’t throw them in the Dumpster.”
Officials aren’t concerned that the skates — buried in some cases for more than 20 years — will have any lasting environmental impact on the park, he said. No one within the department is in trouble.
“We found out about it and said that will never happen again,” Baechle said.
The county will continue to rent skates until it’s no longer safe to use them, he said. And then they will be thrown away.
By that point, the skates are too worn down to be donated, Baechle said, and it would cost more to detach the blade from the boot than what the county could earn back by recycling them.
But that’s what the staff at the RMU Island Sports Center does with its old skates.
The rental skates at the sports complex on Neville Island are made of plastic, so they are a bit more durable than traditional leather skates, executive director Dave Hanson said. His staff doesn’t have to throw many away.
If they are damaged beyond repair, the center tries to recycle them, he said. Otherwise, old skates are donated.
They never bury them.
Elizabeth Behrman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.