Firefighters have volunteered to create an ice rink at the Common, bringing skating back for the first time in five years.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The longtime tradition of ice skating at the Common is returning this winter after a five-year hiatus, but it is undecided whether that will continue as the park enters the next phases of redevelopment.
An effort currently under way to ice over the field arose out of a request by a group of local firefighters who are doing the project on their own time. The group opened the hydrants late last week to begin pumping in the large volume needed to fill the 150-foot field with water up to 3 feet deep in places
"We gave them the go ahead, we thought it was a perfect initiative," said James McGrath, the city's parks and open spaces manager. "Unfortunately, the weather's not really cooperating, but as I understand they're going to try to get out there and really finish the job should the weather hold for us."
Frigid temperatures expected beginning early next week should help set the rink.
The City Council voted Tuesday to accept a recently awarded $400,000 grant for the next of four phases in the redevelopment plan for the First Street park.
Phase 2 will be addressing a lot of work to the foundation of the park, including grading, drainage and electrical conduits that will set the infrastructure for the final two stages, as well as redoing the pathways and all lighting. Construction will begin in July, with the playground side of the park remaining open throughout the work period.
Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Simonelli inquired about whether the current effort to have a rink will be the last, as the reconstruction continues.
"It was my understanding that the skating rink was not going to be part of the project in its entirety when its completed," Simonelli asked McGrath. "Is this a one year thing, of the skating rink?"
McGrath confirmed that the master plan for the park did not include a formal ice rink. "There was some concern about the damage that a rink might cause to the turf in the great lawn area."
McGrath said that while the city had a detailed plan of what is intended to come out of the next phases of the park redevelopment, it will still be putting it back before the public for additional input before future phases are undertaken.
"If there's real momentum, and folks really want to see an ice rink or the ability to site an ice rink out there, we want to explore that, thoroughly," he said. "It's not off the table, but it's something that we want to look more closely at."
"I'm glad we're going to revisit this conversation," said Councilor Melissa Mazzeo.
"If its really determined that we won't be siting a rink at all in the future at the Common, I think it's incumbent on the city, and certainly the Parks Commission and the staff of the Community Development office to figure out how we're going to provide winter ice for this community," McGrath told the council. "We really need to get serious about that once and for all."