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November 25. 2012 8:30PM

North Conway prepares for re-opening of public skating rink


The warming hut at the North Conway skating rink sits quiet now, but should be very busy soon. (SARA YOUNG-KNOX PHOTO)

NORTH CONWAY - The Grinch made an appearance at the ribbon cutting for the public skating rink at Schouler Park on Saturday, but he wasn't there to crush the holiday spirit of North Conway villagers.

It was the good Grinch who showed up, the one whose heart had increased three sizes, and though he made no remarks, he and his fellow Seussians were clearly happy with the effort to make sure the rink didn't melt away into the past.

The rink was formerly managed by the North Conway Outing Club, with help from the North Conway Water Precinct and North Conway Community Center. Last winter, there were increased liability and safety concerns when a local woman died after slipping and hitting her head on the ice.

The town has taken over rink management, with the precinct still playing an active role and providing around half of the funding needed to open and maintain it. The outing club was not organized formally, and over the years has lost members.

Though the effort to make sure the rink got up and running this year was a joint undertaking, it was the Community Celebrations Committee that fundraised for the rink.

The rink will not open until late December but preparations are underway. On Saturday, the 10-inch pressure-treated pine boards that will form the rink's border were still sitting at the edge of the newly leveled baseball field, but the refurbished warming hut was open. The hut, which has been turned to face the rink so that those keeping cozy inside can watch the skaters, was a welcome shelter from the brisk, icy wind whipping across the park as the sun set over the mountains Saturday.

"It's going to take a good solid week of cold temperatures to get ice," John Eastman, Conway Parks and Recreation Department director said Saturday.

The old backboards have been retired, and new, pressure-treated lumber will form the perimeter of the rink. Eastman said the outline of the rink will go up Tuesday, with a target opening of the holiday vacation week. The rink will be open weekends, holidays and school vacation weeks. If more money becomes available - fundraising efforts are ongoing - then hours could increase.

The rink will close for the season March 1. By then, the late winter sun is strong enough to melt frozen surfaces during the day, so maintenance is more challenging.

It's an ancient art, making ice, but getting the word out when the rink is open is all high tech. Eastman said this year, besides Facebook updates, there will be a link from the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce's website.

"I'm very happy with it," Eastman said of the warming hut after the ribbon cutting. "It just needed a little work."

"A little TLC," Jim Umberger, precinct commissioner, added.

The tender love and care for the hut included new benches with backs, similar to the benches at the Conway Scenic Railroad Station, larger windows, all-weather carpeting, and fresh paint for both the interior and exterior. Eastman said that Russ Seybold of the Conway Scenic Railroad allowed them to use the same color as the railroad station, and helped them match paint.

"This didn't happen overnight," Eastman said in his remarks to those gathered for the ribbon cutting.

Given the honor of using the ceremonial scissors was John Cannell of the North Conway Outing Club. The ribbon cutting was held in conjunction with the village's Snowflake Festival, which included the park's tree lighting and carol singing by M&D Productions players from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

youngknox@newstote.com


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