Frigid temperatures help pond to beckon skaters back

New Hampshire Union Leader
January 24. 2014 10:32PM
Marcus Laube, right, and Chip Foley, both of the Concord High School team, shovel the ice following their game during opening day of the Black Ice Hockey Tournament at White Park in Concord. Teams from the Northeast and Canada will be competing throughout the weekend. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Four Manchester Central High School hockey players piled out of a van Friday at Dorrs Pond, carrying skates, sticks and even their own net, but they were a day too early.

The ice was still being groomed for free public skating. Starting today, for the first time in years, Dorrs Pond will “officially” be open for skating, said city parks chief Don Pinard.

Equipment was borrowed from the JFK Coliseum to help with smoothing the surface of the ice, which Pinard said is about 11 inches thick. Because people have already been using the pond and snow has melted on it — leaving a bumpy surface — it has taken some effort to finish clearing and smoothing the area that is now about the size of one and a half hockey rinks.

That means the somewhat irregularly shaped skating area is between 300 and 400 feet long and 100 to 150 feet wide.

On weekends, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., there will be staff on hand and a fire in the “skate house” stove to warm skaters taking a break.

“It’s something we’ve wanted to do,” said Pinard. After the first stretch of cold weather, he said: “It was time to try to do something out here.”

With the temperature expected to be in the 20s today, he’s sure the skating will be ideal for opening day. Especially if a few snowflakes drift down in the afternoon.

“We will continue to maintain it,” he said, with blowers to move the new snow and a pump to bring water up from under the ice to provide a new, smooth surface when needed.

That’s not to say Dorrs Pond hasn’t been in use for skating without official city maintenance.

The hockey quartet of 17-year-olds from Central have already been out on the ice this year. “We came here last week and played,” said Andrew Kehas.

They weren’t skipping Friday. “It’s midterms. We just wanted to play more hockey,” said Brendan O’Neil.

They have been skating here for years. “This is the first place I skated,” said Tim Tetrault, who said he was probably about three or four then.

The four teens chose not to waste the day and decided to head to Stevens Pond, next to Interstate 93, where they’ve skated before, said Jon Mathieu. But Stevens Pond isn’t groomed and O’Neil took one more look at the smooth, unmarked surface of Dorrs Pond. “I’ve never seen it like that,” he said.

If skating and downhill skiing aren’t your winter sports, Pinard offered other options.

Nordic skiing trails have been groomed at Derryfield Country Club and they also open officially today. They are on the south side of the clubhouse, the opposite side from the popular sledding hill.While cross country skiers have cut their own trails in the past, Pinard said: “If we groom the trails, we can keep them off the green.”

He said there’s a trail about a mile long, with branches off the main trail.

There are other possible cross country trail locations he’s looking at in the city, including recreation trails. “But we have to depend on Mother Nature,” he said.

There is also a one-day event scheduled today at Derryfield Country Club for people interested in learning about snowshoeing. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Eastern Mountain Sports will have a snowshoeing demonstration, with opportunities for the public to try the activity

Pinard has big outdoor recreation plans for the rest of the winter, if the weather cooperates.

He’d like to bring back neighborhood skating rinks. He’s starting at Parkside Avenue, and Sheridan-Emmett Park is his next target. “We plow it out, make bankings and flood them,” he said. They used to be common. “I’d like to bring that back,” he said.

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