It’s hard to get a good outdoor skating rink going in Nelson for more than a couple of days at a time because of our quick freeze-thaw cycles.
But the two weeks over Christmas and New Year’s were an exception, with the creation of a good-sized, well-maintained, and very popular rink at Lions Park.
Skaters come and go throughout the day, usually a couple of dozen skaters on the ice at any given time – kids, teenagers, adults, even some two-year-olds – playing hockey or just skating around, having some cross-generational fun in the crisp outdoors until the rink lights are turned off at 10 p.m.
Sometimes it’s one hockey game on the whole rink, but sometimes more than one, with lots of pucks on the ice at once.
On New Year’s Eve, a brilliantly sunny day, the rink was especially vibrant.
“It’s so refreshing right now, it just feels like such great community spirit, going outside and sharing this together,” said Tanya Johnston who was there with her three kids. “It’s a nice thing to be able to do with your family and your friends’ families, especially right now when there’s limited things you can do together.”
Another parent, Ben Dovell, agrees that such shared family fun is long overdue.
“We’ve missed things like this over the last couple of years,” he said. “It’s awesome, look at all the people out here. The kids love it. My boy just started hockey here — he couldn’t even skate, and now he’s out here playing hockey. He’s five.”
To keep a rink like this going takes a lot of day-to-day work behind the scenes. One of the main organizers is Paul Major.
“A lot of people volunteer their time to do this,” he says. “The Lions Club members come in November and they set up the boards. And they’ve been the same members doing it for years.”
He says the age of the skaters changes predictably throughout the day.
“First we’ve got young kids, and then the 9-10-11 year-olds in the afternoon, and in the late afternoon you get the teenagers coming out. And then in the late evenings here, the very old teenagers are playing up until 10 o’clock.”
Then volunteers water the ice and turn off the lights.
Major says he sometimes comes back and waters the rink in the middle of the night in the dark.
“It’s perfectly still. Occasionally I’ll see a deer walk by. After I’m done and put the hose away, then I just walk out and look at the gleam on the ice.”