PEPPERELL -- This year, Townsend Recreation is forgoing the creation of a town ice rink. Although it's something that has been done in the past and the question had been discussed at several meetings, said Recreation Director Emy Hoff, it's a matter of liability.
"It's not that we won't ever revisit it, but we're currently not putting one in," she said. "There's no way to control its maintenance, and there is a definite issue of liability for whatever area we put it on. There's no way to monitor it properly. It could create issues for us to carry that liability."
However, Townsend residents don't have to look far for a public skating rink. A team of volunteers, on behalf of the Friends of Pepperell Recreation, completed an ice rink on the town softball field on Jan. 3. Now, said Sue Boswell, who organized the volunteer effort behind the project, all they need is for the rink to freeze.
Once the ice solidifies, Boswell is hoping to have a grand opening for the rink, complete with music and food. The local Boy Scout troops have already applied to the town to get a permit to sell food for the event.
"Now we're just waiting for it to freeze and pick a date," said Boswell. "If it freezes by the end of the week, I would love to do it (this upcoming) weekend, but we'll have to make sure."
Boswell will be testing the waters soon.
"Last year it was very scientific," she joked. "I waited a few days, strapped on a pair of skates and said 'Okay, let's see.'"
This is the second year that Pepperell has set up the public ice rink. The Friends of Pepperell Recreation approached Boswell about putting together the rink last year. Not long after, she gathered a few volunteers to assist. The group ordered the lumber and the tarp and began assembling the rink on the basketball court.
Through their circles of friends and outreach through social media and the newspaper, the pool of volunteers slowly grew. Unfortunately, temperatures worked against the team last year, and the rink never really got off the ground.
"We had 10 days of frozen ice last year," said Boswell.
To assist with the science of freezing this year, the team opted for an all white tarp as opposed to the translucent variety they used last year in order to better reflect the sun's heat. They have also moved the location to the field. Other than that, though, they largely reused their materials from last year.
Over the course of less than a week, the crew set up the 76-foot by 96-foot rink, assembling the frame, seaming and laying the plastic and filling the rink from a spigot.
"Theoretically it could be done in a weekend if all the stars aligned," said Boswell. "It's a matter of limited volunteers. This time of year, people are so busy."
None of the volunteers had experience in similar projects, said Boswell.
"We relied on asking around and talking to folks," she said. "The gentleman who sold us the liner was very helpful in giving us information. Last year was a learning experience and this year is a learning experience."
The project is being funded by the Friends of Pepperell Recreation. The team is working with town administration, the recreation commissioners and the Water Department to make sure everything is ready to go. Boswell said she has discussed issues of liability with town administration and none arose.
"I believe in talking to folks at Town Hall. I checked with everyone who needed to be checked with and was told it's in the clear," she said.
Now, they are crossing their fingers for cold weather so that the rink can be opened to the public.
The crew is still in need of volunteers, not for assembly but for maintenance in case of snow. Boswell has put calls out to several different organizations in town, including the local Boy and Girl Scout troops. She is hoping to organize a schedule of volunteers to sign up for a week.
"Then if it snows that week, they would go out and shovel it," she said.
In return, the rink would be open to their organization to sell tickets for fundraisers or, if they were able to get a permit, hot cocoa.
"If they would maintain it, they could use it as a week to get their name out there and do whatever they wanted," said Boswell. "We're trying to be creative to get any and all help."
Pepperell Recreation is also collaborating with Mike Spengler, Pepperell resident and president of the organization Restore Hockey, a division of the nonprofit Restore Sports. Spengler provided the rink with gently used ice skates. Residents can trade in their old skates for a better fitting size or borrow a pair for the rink.
"I'm hoping once it freezes it will be a really fun, well-used place in town," said Boswell.