NORTHAMPTON — With the winter season in full effect, Look Memorial Park has introduced the perfect amenity for the winter season.

In a Facebook post that garnered almost 700 likes on Jan. 10, the park announced it has built 40-foot by 80-foot ice skating rink behind the Garden House.

According to Mark Penney, the operations director of Look Park, this is the park’s first skating rink since before the coronavirus pandemic.

“I grew up playing hockey and skating a number of years ago,” said Penney, a Canadian native who has been with the park for close to a year. “So, when I started working at the park, a rink was something I wanted to bring back.”

According to Penney, this is not the first time the park has featured a rink. In an interview with Reminder Publishing, he said that he has records that show that people used to skate on Willow Lake from the 1990s to around 2012.

But as winters became more unpredictable and too warm, it became too difficult to rely on a lake for a skating rink.

The park also tried to maintain a rink prior to COVID-19, but for various reasons, the rink did not work out.

Aspirations for a new rink sprung again about a year ago when Penney and Look Park Executive Director Justin Pelis expressed a desire to bring a skating rink back to the park. As someone who has spent the last several years caretaking a skating rink in his own backyard for his children, Penney was the ideal choice to maintain the new rink in Look Park.

According to Penney, the area behind the Garden House brings many advantages for a skating rink including its flatness and proximity to a water source for maintenance purposes.

The new rink also boasts an area with nearby parking, and people can access the rink behind the Visitor Center.

“We know we wanted folks to enjoy it so access to parking was also very important to us,” Penney said. “We also have the bathrooms right there which is important because it’s during the time of year where we close all the other bathrooms in the park except of the ones at the Visitor Center.”

Like many outdoor activities though, skating can also hinge on what mother nature brings to the table. The new rink was not open to the public during the week of Look Park’s announcement because of warm weather and Penney said a recent winter weather storm created a slushy surface.

With enough water and labor though, Penney said it was “nothing [he] can’t fix.”
As of press time, there was not a set date for when the rink would officially open, but colder temperatures at the end of last week gave Penney optimism that the rink would open to the public this past weekend.

According to the Look Park Facebook post, the rink also comes with a set of rules that people are asked to follow. One of them is no hockey pucks and sticks are allowed while another says no food or beverages are allowed on the rink.

“As much as I’d love to see sticks and puck and game the hockey out there, it’s not in a good place because of the proximity to the garden house and there’s windows in the back,” Penney said.

The rink is free to use and will be open from the time the park’s gate opens in the morning until the park rangers close the park in the evening.

Readers can follow updates on the rink by visiting the Look Park Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lookpark01062.