Sharpen your blades and tie up your laces: The public ice rink has returned to Airport Park.
The recent cold weather, plus a better location in the park, enabled the town to build a rink for the first time in three years, assistant parks and rec director Derek Mitchell said.
The rink, equipped with solar powered lights, will be open from dawn until 9:30 p.m. daily and will be maintained through March, provided the weather cooperates.
This year the rink moved from its former parking lot locale to a field area. The town hired an employee of Milton’s J&M Sand to level the area and create berms to hold water. All told, the project took less than three days to complete, with an additional two days spent creating a shoe-changing hut, Colchester Recreation’s Andrew Newton said.
“We were definitely anxious to get it up just because we know how much people missed having it around,” Newton said. “It was great to see people hop right on it almost instantly.”
The town last created the rink in 2016 but has held off due to volatile fluctuations in temperature. In recent years there haven’t been enough consecutive days of cold weather to freeze the ground, Mitchell said.
The old parking lot location proved particularly challenging with its blacktop surface, which retained heat and required a tarp liner to contain water. Employees were concerned about the rink thawing, posing the risk of skates tearing the liner and letting water run out, Mitchell said. That would require extra maintenance and investment they weren’t looking to undertake.
This year’s rink is 100 by 80 feet and will be resurfaced at least once a week by the parks and rec crew and their “makeshift Zamboni.” The ice resurfacer, created years ago by a former parks supervisor, uses a 55-gallon-drum and drip pipe system to spread warm water over the shredded ice, providing a smoothed surface for better skating conditions, according to Newton.
Both Mitchell and Newton are excited about this year’s setup, which they believe will improve skaters’ experience. The hut will keep folks out of the elements while preparing to skate, and the lights will allow working professionals to enjoy the rink outside the confines of the weekend. However, the town won’t offer rentals or staff the rink.
The project’s labor, maintenance and materials are all worth it, staff said.
“We always get a lot of positive feedback,” Newton said.