Neighborhood spat turns into a holy war over pond hockey rink in Stillwater

When dusk descends with people skating, there's no more peace, say the Camerons who want the frozen revelers to cease and desist.

When dusk descends with people skating, there's no more peace, say the Camerons who want the frozen revelers to cease and desist.

Jeff and Jacquelyn Cameron thought they'd bought a piece of heaven in the summer of 2012. Their sparkling 4,000-square-foot, five-bedroom home on a quarter acre in Stillwater's sprawling Millbrook subdivision was fronted by lush sod and backed by a quaint retention pond.

As winter set in, the Camerons' summertime beatitude turned into displeasure.

Rec skaters and hockey players alike from the neighborhood gathered on the pond's frozen playground. This greatly vexed the Camerons, who brought their complaint to the homeowners association. The HOA's rules didn't permit skating, the couple argued.

Two things then happened: The matter of winter pond fun was put to a vote and unanimously approved by the homeowners. The association then hired lawyers to amend the bylaws accordingly.

As the years rolled forward, skaters arrived each winter and the Camerons' carping continued. They accused pond lovers of using city water to flood the surface, which, in turn, hurt wildlife. Snowblowers clearing the ice belched exhaust that exacerbated Mrs. Cameron's and their daughter's auto-immune diseases. Evening activity, they added, affected the family's ability to get a good night's rest.

This winter the dispute turned dark. Last week, the dozen-plus families whose homes abut the pond woke to see that someone had desecrated the ice. A trail of sand starting in one corner and looping through the center of the rink had completely marred the surface. 

Larry Odebrecht was one of the witnesses as his backyard also leads to the pond. His pad actually sits closer to it than does the Camerons'. Skaters' voices are inaudible inside his walls, says Odebrecht. He's seen ducks swimming in its waters during the six years he's lived in Millbrook. He once spotted a squirrel rummaging nearby.

"If he's got a beef," says Odebrecht, "he should take it to the homeowners association and try to get the bylaws amended to stop the skating."

Repeated messages left on the Camerons' home phone went unreturned, but Jeff Cameron told WCCO's John Lauritsen last week that he sees the rink as "a couple people doing whatever they want."

“It’s just wrong," he said. "There’s not respect for wildlife or people’s privacy. It’s crazy when there is a hockey rink supported by the city nearby.” 

A few members of the community returned the pond to game shape that same morning the vandalism was discovered. The saboteur or saboteurs remain unidentified.