No rest for the town ice rink



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Youngsters take advantage of the Arthur A. Tilton town ice rink right in their backyards while playing some ice hockey during the winter months. Courtesy photo. (click for larger version)
January 26, 2011
It's been over year since the Arthur A. Tilton Gilford Ice Rink got its groove back thanks to skating enthusiasts who decided to spend their weekends repainting the facility, and now it's up and running and being used for a host of new progams.

While the Gilford Parks and Recreation Commission has stood behind the town skating rink all along, prior to last winter, the Board of Selectmen considered shutting down the rink. The board was informed that the rink is partially funded by federal funds, and therefore the town is held accountable for upholding the rink, but even the idea of closing the rink brought dozens of volunteers forward last year.

Parks and Recreation Director Herb Greene said despite some assumptions, the town rink has opened year after year and has always been used by the public. Because the rink made it into the spotlight last year, he said, more people are now aware of the facility.

"The Recreation Commission has often discussed the rink. It has always been an interest of theirs, and it has been maintained every year," said Greene. "The goal is to offer new events for the community and brainstorm. Our staff has kept the rink going, just as they have in the past."

For 2010, the rink was budgeted at $8,960, and for 2011 the proposed ice rink budget currently stands at $8,863 for utility costs and to keep up maintenance of the facility.

"Our goal is to increase the use and get people out there," said Greene. "More recently, we have also used the rink in the off season with programs such as archery."

He said that organizations such as the Gilford Police Relief Association are also considering renting out the rink and hosting children's activities to raise funds in the future.

"General feedback from the public has always been positive. People appreciate a place to go down town and skate for free during the day," said Greene. "The lake is not always in the best conditions for skating, and the rink is convenient. I think people appreciate having that resource."

The town rink, located on Varney Point Road, officially opened up on Dec. 20 and will remain open until the beginning of March, although an outdoor rink is dependent on Mother Nature more than anything else.

"It really depends on the weather, but it's a good start. It's the earliest we have opened since I can remember. We usually open around New Year's," said Greene. "We certainly hope it will stay frozen for the winter carnival and into March."

Last year during the Recreation's Department's annual Winter Carnival during school vacation in February, the weather proved to be unpredictable and went from a snowstorm, to rain, to warmer weather all within one week. By the end of the carnival the ice rink had to be closed down since the ice had begun to melt.

As of right now, the weather is cold enough to ensure great skating conditions at the rink for the next month.

An adult curling program is scheduled to start on this Thursday from 7-8 p.m. at the ice rink.

"We did have some people express interest in the curling program," said Greene, who believes this will be more popular than the broomball program last year thanks to its Olympic status. "We are currently painting targets on the ice to prep for curling."

The Winter Carnival will officially kick off Feb. 25, a Friday night, with the popular Community Skating Party at the rink. The carnival will offer some favorite events including family curling and the cardboard box sled race derby down the sledding hill.

Regular ice rink hours are now in session. From dawn to 10 a.m. opening skating is in session, and from 10 a.m. 12 p.m. teens are allowed to play "Stick and Puck" on the rink. From 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. open skating resumes, and from 3:30 p.m. sticks and pucks are allowed once again, although prohibited during open skating times.

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