by Carla Occaso
MONTPELIER — Water poured out for hours Jan. 2 in an effort to ready the first State House lawn ice skating rink. The Bridge stopped by around 2 p.m. (with yet an hour or so more of water dispensing to go) and ran into Montpelier Alive board president Sarah Jarvis, Montpelier Fire Chief Robert Gowans and rink installer Damian Renzello, among others.
“The weather will dictate the opening at this point and it looks warm the next few days, so stay tuned to see if we stay on track” wrote Ashley Witzenberger, executive director of Montpelier Alive, one of the partners in creating the project. “The community support has been terrific and we can’t wait to see everyone skating downtown under the golden dome.”
Renzello and Dan Vooris, a volunteer on the project, were making final tweaks to the rink’s structure as the water gushed and curious onlookers approached with a smattering of questions. One person asked if the rink would kill the grass underneath. Renzello said once the snow starts melting, grass germination starts. So it is up to the city to remove the rink early enough to let the grass grow. Renzello is the owner of Porta-Rinx based in East Montpelier. He is also supplying a “bambini,” which will be used to maintain the rink. A bambini is a smaller version of a zamboni, which is used to smooth ice surfaces.
The fire department helped get the water flowing through hoses belonging to the department of public works beginning at around 11 a.m. “We’re helping supply water. It is a great thing for the city,” Gowans said. It is expected to take until around 4 p.m. to fill the rink, with about 25,000 total gallons needed.
Montpelier Alive has a webpage for the rink: http://montpelieralive.org/222/The-Rink-at-State-Street and will be adding information on where to purchase and rent skates locally.
The Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services executed an agreement with the City of Montpelier allowing for the installation of a temporary skating rink in front of the state’s Capitol building. The idea was the brainchild of a small group who formed the “Put a Rink on It” committee in an effort to coax the idea into reality. With support from Montpelier Alive, National Life, Vermont Mutual and others, and with the backing of Montpelier’s City Council, the committee and city staff worked for over a year to gain approval.
The rink will be open Wednesdays through Fridays from 3 to 7 p.m. and on the weekends from noon until 7 p.m. through the winter season, provided that ice is safe for skating. It will be free and open to the public during these monitored skating hours. To ensure the rink is safe for all skaters, hockey will not be allowed at the rink.
“This rink is a great example of volunteerism at work in our community. It would never have happened without the hard work of Nate Hausman and Kimberley McKee. I’m very pleased with the successful partnership between Montpelier Alive, the State of Vermont and the City of Montpelier that also brought this project to fruition. I look forward to skating with Montpelier residents and visitors this winter,” said Mayor John Hollar.
Ashley Witzenberger, the executive director of Montpelier Alive, a nonprofit which promotes the vitality of the capital city, added, “We’re very excited to see the rink installed. We think it’ll add to the vibrancy of downtown Montpelier and will be a boon to both residents and the downtown business community.”
People interested in volunteering to monitor the rink can sign up here: https://goo.gl/forms/ECGcx9QcIQfbEalb2.