AMESBURY — Every year once the ground begins to freeze, Richard Gale and a handful of other local residents gather at Amesbury Town Park with a big hose and a grand vision.
Over the course of a few days, the volunteers flood an 80-by-160-foot portion of the park with water and let the cold winter air do the rest, transforming the area into a free skating rink available for all residents to use.
“We’ve been doing it for six or seven years,” Gale said. “We had to wait for cold weather and the ground has to freeze because there is no liner underneath it, it’s just right on the ground.”
The recent run of cold weather provided the perfect opportunity for the group to set up this year’s rink, and now Gale said he’s hoping the whole community comes out and takes advantage after an unusually warm winter cut last year’s skating season short.
“It’s open,” Gale said. “There’s no grand opening, it’s available and we want people to use it.”
Funded by the Carriage Museum, of which Gale is an active member, the rink sits in the triangle of land between Highland Street, Greenleaf Street and Friend Street surrounded by pine trees and homemade flags. The rink also features recently renovated overhead lights that illuminate the rink for skaters at night.
“It’s lit until about 9:30 at night,” Gale said. “We put the lights in and brought the soil, because the water is just held in by a little [slope]. You can see it on the edge of the ice, and that’s all that holds the water in.”
Because the rink sits on top of solid ground, there is no risk of skaters falling through the ice into freezing cold water. The location also makes cleanup in the spring a simple proposition, because once the ice melts, the water just runs off into the ground.