Ice skaters may return to Portland’s Deering Oaks pond this winter after all, if the weather continues to cooperate by turning cold.

Unseasonably mild temperatures and little precipitation in recent weeks allowed a city contractor, R.J. Grondin & Sons of Gorham, to complete a $1.1 million pond restoration project three months ahead of schedule.

A month ago, many skaters were unhappy to learn that the man-made pond, which has been a quintessential skating spot for more than a century, would be closed and under construction through March.

“We heard from them on our Facebook page,” said Anne Pringle, president of Friends of Deering Oaks. “Skating on the pond has been a tradition in the park from the beginning. It has always been the most appealing place to skate in Portland.”

Soon, skaters could be out on the ice. The city began filling the pond with water Friday and hoped that predicted rainfall in the coming week would help finish the job, city officials said.

Sean O’Leary, project manager for Grondin & Sons, is among those who are happy that skating will be possible at Deering Oaks this winter.

“I was disappointed too,” O’Leary said. “I’ve skated there for years and I was going to miss it.”

The project called for removing leafy debris, litter and sediment from the pond and adding a gravel-and-concrete bottom. With extra crews available, Grondin & Sons put some of its best workers on the job and took advantage of recent temperatures in the 40s and 50s, O’Leary said.

“The weather has been magnificent of late and it hasn’t rained much,” O’Leary said. “Plus, the material we removed was less saturated and more solid than we expected, so the work was a lot easier and faster.”

Paid for with a $600,000 federal grant and $500,000 in city funds, the long-planned project was necessary to improve water quality in the pond and make it easier for city crews to do regular maintenance without getting heavy equipment stuck in the mud, city officials said.

While some people questioned why the city scheduled the project to be done in winter, city officials noted that the park has fewer visitors this time of year and the usually frozen ground makes it easier to maneuver heavy equipment.

The pond was part of the original 1879 design for the 54-acre park, which was drawn up by then-City Engineer William Goodwin. The mill pond was expanded to 4 acres when Goodwin closed the tidal gates of Deering Bridge, according to “Bold Vision,” a history of Portland’s parks.

The park has seen numerous improvements over the years, including the restoration of the Castle-in-the-Park in 2005. Built next to the pond in 1894, the turreted, granite-and-brick building was a whimsical warming hut for skaters that featured a vaulted ceiling, stained-glass windows and a fireplace.

Hollywood recognized the pond’s appeal when it was featured in an ice-skating scene in the 1996 film “The Preacher’s Wife,” starring Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington.

More recently, holiday tree light displays designed by Pandora LaCasse and funded by Friends of Deering Oaks have become a major feature of the park, adding a special glow for nighttime skaters.

“It creates a special ambiance, and now the colors of the lights change every night,” Pringle said. “Now we just need the weather to cooperate and be just cold enough to freeze, but no snow.”