Members of the Fire Department spent Friday in subzero temperatures starting the groundwork for an ice skating rink at Osceola Park.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — There will not be an ice skating rink at the First Street Common this year.
But, have no fear skating lovers, the Fire Department began laying the first layers of ice for one at Osceola Park, off of West Housatonic Street.
"It's cold out but this is a good day for it," said firefighter Matt Kudlate, as he and three other off-duty department members sprayed what will be the foundation for a 60-by-40 foot skating rink in subzero temperatures Friday.
For years, members of the department have volunteered their time to create the rink for the Common. But, the Common is under construction and has been regraded, leaving them with nowhere to go. They worked with the city's Parks Department and found a new home at Osceola.
"We've always done it at the Common but they've regraded it and there will be new landscaping so it will probably be here from now on," Kudlate said.
The tradition dates back further than most can remember, so the department wasn't going to give up — especially after seeing the rink filled with people skating on the opening day of last year. On Friday, Osceola proved to be a bit more difficult to create as the firefighters used a reserve truck to load up 500 gallons of water at a time to set the first layer.
After laying the groundwork for the rink on Friday, a larger team of volunteers will return to the park on Saturday, with larger hoses, to build a total of 3 to 6 inches of ice. And just about every day throughout the winter someone will be there maintaining the ice surface.
"It pretty takes the whole department to do this," Kudlate said. "It really is a department effort."
While the rink won't be ready for skating for another five or so days, giving time for the water to freeze, Osceola is still expected to be a hot bed of winter activity on Saturday. The city will open the rope tow, which brings children up to the top of the hill for sledding and tubing.
The rope tow will have two operators helping children from noon until 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Osceola Park has had rope tow, seen in the back, for sledding for years, but now the park is complimented with another outdoor activity.
"The rope tow is one of the traditions and just another free thing we offer the community," said Rebecca Tefft, the city's parks and recreation program director.
Now the two traditional outdoor activities can complement each other off West Housatonic Street.
But, Berkshire weather doesn't always care about tradition: Sunday and Monday are expected to be warmer with rain.
So, just in case, the city has reached a new partnership with the Boys and Girls Club to offer four free days of ice skating on the indoor rink.
"We've heard how everybody loves skating in Pittsfield but the weather is inconsistent," Tefft said. "We teamed up with the Boys and Girls Club to offer free skating on four dates."
The free public skates will be on Saturdays — Jan. 11, Jan. 25, Feb. 8 and Feb. 22 — and there will a limited number of free skate rentals as well. The public skate is from 2 until 3:45 p.m.
Meanwhile, at Osceola on Friday, Kudlate said the weather outlook appears to be good enough to set a good base on the outdoor rink. There is only one warm day on the horizon, which Kudlate said will actually help even out the ice. Firefighters are using new techniques in layering the ice and hopes it last throughout the winter.
Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski, after checking in on the progress, said he approves of his staff using their free time to create the rink.
So, while one tradition may have changed, another stayed the same and a third has just begun. But the winter activity traditions have not been lost in Pittsfield.