It was built and they came, they helped, they skated

A group of young people celebrate a birthday party at the community skating rink in Bethel. Department of Bethel Rec.

BETHEL — According to Bethel Recreation Director Marcy Scanlon, one lesson was very clear during the Bethel Community Rink’s first season: it takes a whole village to skate successfully. Volunteers maintain the rink, sometimes scraping in the middle of the night when they get off from work.

“There is a great group of volunteers who have given incredible weather this winter to keep the ice at this rink looking great to skate on and to keep it open for nine weeks. Nine weeks! It’s dedication,” Scanlon boasted via email on Tuesday.

According to Scanlon, volunteers check the rink every day and at least once a week a team of volunteers meets to resurface the ice. After the storms, a group of volunteers mobilizes to plow, plow and shovel the skating rink and the picnic tables that surround it.

And the ice rink was an idea carried by the community since its inception. According to Scanlon, there have been attempts in the past to create an ice rink in the city, but this time the idea had a certain “ump” – community support.

“We specifically named the rink ‘The Bethel Community Rink’. Bethel Recreation made it clear from the start that to have this rink, people had to step up and help. And they did.

Last year, a group of volunteers brought the idea of ​​building a skating rink to the town of Bethel. The group, made up of seven members of the Bethel Recreation Board and other community members, worked with the Bethel Public Works Department to find a site, ultimately deciding on the site for Ethel Bisbee School, which was vacant for at least 10 years before. the skating rink was created.

“It’s municipal property, it’s a quiet location, lots of parking, easy access to a fire hydrant for water and electricity,” Scanlon noted.

After choosing the site, the public works department carried out the first works; lot leveling, which Scanlon says is key to a successful rink.

“You don’t want two inches of water at one end and ten inches at the other,” she explained.

Overnight volunteers work to make sure the rink is smooth. Department of Bethel Rec.

And then came the construction of the rink itself. The rink was purchased from an online retailer and built in pieces, put together, as Scanlon put it, “like Legos.” The sides are 2-inch by 4-inch plastic planks, held in place by brackets, which can be easily moved for spring storage and allow for the installation of more planks if the recreation department wants to expand the size of the skating rink next winter.

According to Scanlon, the total cost of the rink was around $10,000. Part of the rink was funded from the public works budget, with the rest funded by donations from Norway Savings Bank, Bethel Rotary Club, River Fund Maine and individual donors including the families of Jarred Rice and Phil Sheridan, who dedicated the donations in their memoirs.

And even though the first winter of operations went fairly smoothly, there were a few cracks in the ice. Last week, due to high temperatures, the rink was closed to preserve the ice. An unidentified individual stepped over the warning tape, walked past the hazard cones and skated, causing damage to the ice that required repair.

“If we close the rink, there are only two reasons why we do it… it is dangerous to skate or we are trying to preserve the ice. I admit I was quite frustrated last week when I saw someone walking around and going over the warning tapes and cones,” she said.

But the damage was short-lived. The next day, the community got together, repaired the damage and opened the rink the next day, in time for the school holidays.

And, according to Scanlon, all that hard work paid off.

“There are many in the community who are thrilled to see the site being used for young people. It’s within walking distance of Crescent Elementary School, so their after-school program, the Mahoosuc Kids Association, has been walking around a few times this winter. I’m already thinking about summer and what we can do there for the kids,” Scanlon said.

And judging by the response this year, Scanlon said improving the size of the rink was a goal.

“We are looking to expand it. Many children in our community have learned to skate this winter. They will be ready for a bigger rink next year.

Scanlon said there are a few rules to remember for those who want to use the space. From 1 to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday there will be family skating and no hockey will be allowed. The ice rink is open every day, excluding bad weather, from dawn to 8 p.m.

And for those interested in volunteering, the first step is to join the “Bethel Community Ice Rink” page on Facebook, where volunteers communicate and plan.

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