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View From the Green

To the Strains of “The Blue Danube” Waltz

By Wiley Wood

A winter carnival is in the works for Norfolk this year, on February 24 and 25, organized by the Weekend In Norfolk crew. And a winter carnival, inevitably, brings thoughts of skating parties.

So it was not surprising that attention should turn again to the old skating rink behind the ballfield on Mountain Road. A sunken square of turf measuring 100 feet on a side, it was last flooded with water and maintained as a rink a dozen years ago.

In the mid-1980s, the rink was operated for several seasons by John Funchion. Twice its present size, it was divided into an area for general skating and another for hockey.

The baton then passed to Sandy Evans, who chaired the Recreation Committee. She kept the rink going by halving its size. “It was great. We had hockey players, skating lessons. Then it kind of petered out.”

The most recent rink master was Van Metcalf, who cleared the rink daily on his modified lawn tractor for a season or two in the oughts of this century.

Neglected since, the site is quietly returning to forest. Tall gray birch saplings and scrubby bushes dot a goldenrod-filled expanse.

“You’re going to need heavy equipment in there,” said Jon Barbagallo, a member of the fire department with skating-age children. He also suggested a layer of clay to retain water. As the ice master at the Norfolk Curling Club, Barbagallo knows firsthand how to build an ice surface layer by layer. “But at the club,” said Barbagallo, “I have a controlled environment.”

And that’s the problem. Norfolk may be the “Icebox of Connecticut,” but its freezer compartment has been unreliable in recent years.

Skaters typically convene at Wood Creek Pond in late December and early January. A bench was built there at the edge of the pond for putting on skates. On a sunny weekend when the ice is good, the inlet by the boat ramp may hold several family groups swirling around or lurching unsteadily, a variety of dogs and a pick-up hockey game. The parents kneel to tighten the skates of the smallest children or step warily onto the ice carrying a thermos of cocoa.

Then come the snows of mid-January, and a small rink is cleared. And cleared again. And again. Periods of thaw alternate with periods of frost. A few brilliant days of skating can still occur deep into March, but the conditions have to be right, and you have to be on your toes to catch them.

A town rink by the ballfield would not have the magic of Wood Creek Pond. And it would be exposed to the same snow and fluctuating temperatures. But standing next to a fire hydrant and under a streetlamp, it offers the possibility of more days of actual skating, and its location close to the center of town is an advantage.

The Norfolk Community Association and the Norfolk Children’s Foundation have offered some funding for the rink. The Recreation Committee approves of the idea, in a general way. The Norfolk Volunteer Fire Department might lend a length of hose. And the Winter Weekend In Norfolk taskforce is gathering information and support on every side. But who will step up to manage the project?

“It has to be someone who likes shoveling,” says John Funchion.

Anyone interested in helping to bring a skating rink to Norfolk this year is invited to call the selectmen’s office (860-542-5829) or Sue Frisch (860-542-6076).

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