Sara Bishop and her roommate have relied on the Deering Oaks pond for the past three years to help combat the winter doldrums.

They make the short walk from their St. John Street apartment to the 3.5-acre pond in the evening, when artistic lights turn the park into a majestic winter wonderland.

“It’s so beautiful and no one else is normally on the ice at night,” said the 22-year-old Bishop, who used to travel from Gorham to skate on the pond.

But this winter, skaters like Bishop will have to travel to rinks in outlying neighborhoods, including a new one at nearby Thompson’s Point. The city is closing the Deering Oaks pond to skating for a $1.1 million restoration project that won’t be completed until April at the earliest.

Bishop appreciates the city’s efforts to improve the pond over the long term, but is still disappointed with the loss of winter skating, if only for one year.

“My first thought was (to feel) really sad,” she said. “It made me a little emotional. What am I going to do?”

The disappointment has spread even to people like Grant Street resident Jennifer Lunden. Although she rarely skates on the pond, she enjoys driving by and observing the wintry scene of ice skaters, which makes her think of her own childhood and feel like she’s in an idyllic small town.

It’s a scene that has not been lost on Hollywood film producers, who used it for the 1996 film “The Preachers Wife,” starring Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington.

“It’s romantic, especially after a fresh snow,” said Lunden, 44, who also appreciates the project’s goals. “I’m amazed how sad I am and I don’t even skate.”

The city says the closure is necessary so it can move forward with a long-planned project to enhance regular maintenance and water quality of the man-made pond, first established in the late 1800s.

Among other upgrades, the project entails cleaning out leafy debris and litter, and adding a gravel and concrete bottom that will make it easier for city crews to conduct regular cleanups without getting heavy equipment stuck in the mud.

“The bottom that was there was so soft, it’s hard to walk on,” said Troy Moon, the city’s environmental programs manager.

Some have questioned why the city waited until winter to do the project, which is being paid for with a $600,000 federal grant and $500,000 in city funds. Moon said it was because the park sees fewer visitors in the winter, and the frozen ground makes it easier for crews to maneuver heavy equipment.

City officials noted that there are still ample opportunities for residents to lace up their skates. Other skating areas include the Riverside Golf Course, the Ludlow Street pond behind Deering High School, Payson Park pond and the Nason’s Corner pond near the Breakwater School, as well as the Portland Ice Arena during public skating hours.

The city responded to some criticism of the ice conditions at two locations, by adding soil to make a better base for an ice surface at Breakwater School, and by cutting back the weeds at Ludlow Street pond every year and adding water to make a smooth surface.

Mill Creek Pond in South Portland also has winter skating.

Meanwhile, the developers of Thompson’s Point are planning on opening a skating rink next Tuesday along the Fore River. The covered, 7,500-square-foot rink will be kept smooth by an ice resurfacing machine.

According to its website, the Rink at Thompson’s Point will have warming stations, food trucks and a heated lounge that serves warm drinks, and alcoholic beverages on designated nights. There will be themed skating nights, including adult-only skating times. Admission is $8 and ice skate rentals are $2. Parking is free.

But for skaters like Bishop, there is something special about the Deering Oaks pond, which quickly became popular as a skating destination and prompted the construction of a 750-square-foot, brick-and-granite castle that was used as a warming house for many years after it was built in 1894. The castle is now being considered for a year-round cafe.

“Most of the rinks around here are square regular rinks,” she said. “They’re not strangely shaped, and there’s usually a hockey game taking place.”