On December 22, 2021

Pittsfield Community Ice Rink is a labor of love

By Brett Yates

Thanks to a team of volunteers, Pittsfield residents will have a free place to go ice skating this winter, as long as the weather cooperates.

When Coral Hawley, the self-proclaimed “ringleader” behind the Pittsfield Community Ice Rink, spoke to the Mountain Times on Dec. 17, an unseasonable warm spell had delayed its opening.

“It’s kind of been a little disappointing,” she admitted. “It’s going to take several days of pretty cold weather to freeze the whole thing.”

By Polly Mikula
A group of volunteers helped to convert Pittsfield’s basketball court into an ice skating rink, which is expected to open soon.

But Hawley looked forward to seeing her and her neighbors’ hard work pay off before long. “I really hope we can start using it soon,” she said.

Early this month, locals covered the basketball court behind Pittsfield’s town hall with a plastic liner and enclosed the perimeter with wooden boards. Pittsfield Volunteer Fire & Rescue lent a truck and hose to flood the new rink.

The labor was free, but the materials weren’t.

On Nov. 23, the Pittsfield Select Board had voted to give Hawley permission to spend $1,000 from the town’s Recreation Reserve Fund on the rink, on the condition that she assemble a three-person committee to manage it. By December, six families had volunteered, but it became clear that $1,000 wouldn’t cover all the costs.

Even with Bethel Mills offering a 40% discount on lumber for the project, the boards put a dent in the budget. The liner and brackets were expensive, too, and the volunteers realized they’d also need to assemble some rubber mats and a bench for the rink’s users to don their skates.

Donations from local businesses and individuals kept the project alive.

“They almost raised as much as the town gave them. That’s amazing,” Selectman AJ Ruben commented at the board’s subsequent meeting.

The rink now has its bench, which the volunteers built themselves, but efforts to improve the facility remain ongoing.

“Pretty much all winter long, there’s going to be work to be done. It’s not like something you just make and leave,” Hawley explained. “Ice rinks normally have a Zamboni, but we don’t have one of those. So in order to keep it smooth and skateable throughout the winter, we’ll continue to put thin layers of water on cold nights, and then it refreezes and it’s nice and smooth.”

Snow removal will be equally important.

“Any time the snow gets on it, the snow will insulate and then it’ll warm the top layer of the ice,” Hawley described. “So pretty much as soon as it’s done snowing, you have to go down there and get the snow off it. We all know it snows often in Vermont, so we have to have volunteers ready to go down there at all times of day to get the snow off.”

Hawley plans to hang shovels next to the rink so that anyone can pitch in, but she’ll have to buy them first. She’ll also need to find an electrician to rewire the old lights above the basketball court for nighttime skating.

Until then, the rink will be open from dawn to dusk, as conditions permit. “I really didn’t plan on putting parameters on it. I’d like to leave it open for community use whenever people feel fit, but also we’ll have to respect the neighbors,” Hawley noted.

Hawley serves on the Roger Clark Memorial Library Board of Trustees, which, through its new Pittsfield Community Connections initiative, has organized several events this year, including a craft fair and a holiday tree-lighting ceremony. The skating rink may be its biggest undertaking yet.

“I just really hoped that this would become kind of a community place and that the community would come together to help maintain it and enjoy it,” Hawley said.

Anyone who wants to help or donate can contact Hawley at 802-746-8181 or CoralLHawley@gmail.com.

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