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First Steps Taken to Revive Skating Rink

 

By Stephen Melville

As reported in last month’s issue of Norfolk Now, it was not that long ago that Norfolk had a decent-sized and well-used outdoor skating rink. This fall, the organizers of WINter Weekend in Norfolk raised the question whether the rink might be revived, and at its October meeting Norfolk’s Board of Selectmen appointed Schuyler Thomson as a committee of one to investigate what it would take to bring a skating rink back to town.

Although the rink was still in use as late as the early 2000s, there appears to be a good bit of confusion about its history, and so the chief investigator’s job is first of all, as Thomson sees it, a matter of “both physical investigation and good quality memories.”

The rink was located on the plot of land along Mountain Road that the town rents for a nominal fee from the Battell Stoeckel Estate. In recent years its fundamental lines remained barely discernible just beyond right field at the ball park—an area roughly 100 feet square, made of berms about a foot and a half or two feet high on the inside, and considerably lower on the outside. A single lamppost, angled out over the rink area, still stands at the southwest corner. Not far away sits a simple, rapidly aging bench. Various shrubs had colonized the berms themselves, while the rink itself filled in with grasses and weeds. As a first step in the physical investigation, Phil Lovett has mowed back all the overgrowth, and the old form is now clearly visible.

Distinctly harder to make out is its history. There is a talk of difficulties “holding water,” and of various more or less successful attempts to address them by laying down clay or vinyl liners. There’s also talk of a possible drain, and general agreement that in the early 1990s about half of the rink area filled in, perhaps to reduce it to dimensions better suited to a liner.

Thomson welcomes any information that will help him assess the current state of the rink with a view to developing a sense both of the costs of reviving it and of the kind of volunteer maintenance it will need.

Photo courtesy of Norfolk Historical Society: This 1971 picture of the old skating rink shows both how big it was and how popular. John Funchion, who operated the rink for a while in the 1980s, can be seen wearing a cap and standing just behind the hockey net.

 

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