By Bill Kirk
---- — Whether it will be like a scene from a Currier and Ives painting, or a leaf-filled duck pond, remains to be seen.
But the Department of Community Services has won the go-ahead to build an ice rink in one corner of The Park.
The 40-by-60-foot rink will be available for anyone who wants to get out for a mid-winter, freestyle skate. Because it will be constructed much like a backyard rink, it won’t have high side walls and thus is not designed for organized hockey games.
The idea, which won the approval of the Board of Selectmen Monday night, has received mostly positive reviews from town officials. Even neighbors of The Park at Chestnut and Bartlet streets appear to be in favor of it.
“As a neighbor of The Park, I like to see it actively used and enjoyed by all generations,” Nancy Jeton of 57 Chestnut St. said in an email to Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski.
After a brief public hearing, selectmen voted 5-0 in favor of allowing DCS volunteers to work with the town’s Plant and Facilities Department to build the temporary rink.
Former Selectman Ted Teichert, working with local resident Bob Chaves, decided to pursue the rink after speaking with High Street resident Mary Beth Nason, who came up with the idea.
They enlisted the support of DCS Executive Director Mary Montbleau, who was enthusiastic about the idea as well.
“We had one at Rec Park (on High Street) and at the Ballardvale playground,” she said. “It was very popular.”
For one reason or another, those outdoor rinks have disappeared.
Montbleau said the new rink will be built with 8-inch-high lumber and some type of tarp, then filled with water from a nearby fire hydrant. It will be maintained by a corps of volunteer snow shovelers, who can sign up on the DCS Facebook page, she said.
“We would like to start a list of people who’d be interested in helping,” she said. “Once it’s built, if we have a team of shovelers we could email, that would be helpful.”
Mike Roli of 2 College Circle told selectmen that while he is against putting a playground at The Park, he is in favor of the rink.
“I see this as a Currier and Ives moment,” he said. “It could be done tastefully. People can utilize it at night. I have a neighbor whose front lawn is a rink for his son. I think this is a good proposal.”
The Planning Board is currently mulling a master plan for The Park, which includes various proposals, including construction of a playground. A number of people have come out in opposition to such a play area.
John Pasquale of Whittier Street said he was concerned that allowing the rink could open a can of worms that would force the town to allow other uses, including a playground.
“This could be an end-around opening a Pandora’s box,” he said. “You put a skating rink over there, but you can’t put a playground?”
Stapczynski said he spoke with the town's senior planner, Lisa Schwarz, about whether the rink would somehow violate the proposed master plan at The Park and she reported it was “not in conflict with what they are doing.” Plus, he said, a rink is temporary while a playground would be permanent.
Teichert said after the meeting that he and other volunteers would have to figure out the best way to maintain the quality of the ice, including shoveling and resurfacing with water in case the ice gets too rough.
Plus, he said, everyone is praying for a cold winter.
“You’ve got to pray for the weather, otherwise all you’ve got is a duck pond there,” he said.