Community skating rink a cool winter hotspot

At any other time of the year, the landscape at Blue Spring Park would be filled with little league baseball fields.

But cold weather means one field has been turned into an outdoor community ice rink.

Centre Region Parks and Recreation allows the public free, unsupervised access to the rink every day of the week during daylight hours — as long as weather permits.

“We’ve been doing this for about 10 years due to popular request by the community,” said Ron Woodhead, director of CRPR.

For 7-year-old Garrett Homan and his family, who love the outdoors, especially during hockey season, the colder the days are, the better.

Garrett took a step out onto the ice and, before he put his second foot down, slid halfway toward the center of the rink; his skate got caught in a crack in the ice.

Garrett is just learning to skate so he can hone his skills to play hockey, but said that tumble was rare for him.

“I’m actually kind of good,” he said. “I never fall. Dad says I’m a natural.”

Garrett spent a couple hours on Saturday with his father, John Homan, skating around, learning to stop and attempting to make sharp turns.

“Maybe I’ll be like Sid the Kid,” Garrett said, referring to Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby.

Woodhead said that crews were out at the grounds, 230 Wagner St., the week before Christmas, putting down tarp and filling the rink with water with help from the Boalsburg Fire Company.

The rink is 80 feet long and 45 feet wide, and enclosed by bales of straw donated by local farmers. The project costs CRPR about $500 a year to maintain, Woodhead said.

The rink sees about 100 people a week, while 3 to 5:30 p.m. on Mondays and Thursday are dedicated solely to hockey.

“Half the process is second-guessing Mother Nature and waiting until it gets cold enough to freeze,” Woodhead said. “We’ve had years that it’s been up and down, but it’s gotten great support since day one. If it makes it to February, then I’d call it a good year.”

The recent cold snap has made for good skating, he said.

“It gets kids outside. It’s something positive for the community and gets a positive response,” Woodhead said. “That’s the one thing that always amazes me — to see people having a good time with something we’ve helped create, and it’s evolved into a real local attraction. Seeing kids and families outside enjoying it is the most priceless thing about it.”