Building precious ice: Mountain Recreation brings outdoor ice to Edwards for third straight year
This year, there will be two sheets of ice set up and maintained by the community
For the third consecutive year, Mountain Recreation is bringing outdoor ice to Edwards. But this year, with new investments — both in infrastructure and in financial contributions — the recreation district is bringing two rinks to Freedom Park in December.
The project has been driven, maintained and utilized by the community since its inception, starting with a group of dads in Singletree who wanted to build an outdoor rink, according to Tom Boyd, a local hockey dad who works for the Vail Valley Foundation.
“When I was growing up in Vail in the ’80s, there were ponds everywhere so you’d skate on the ponds. We’ve always been a ski town but we’ve also always been a hockey town,” Boyd said. “And all of my best memories of being a kid — I liked skiing but I really loved hockey — were of just skating and playing (hockey); there was never a shortage of ice.”
Boyd said the grassroots effort started with dads who wanted to give their kids the same memories.
“Now, if you don’t go out there and build those rinks, then my kids won’t have that same opportunity I did; we want to keep that hockey heritage going,” Boyd said. “Each generation has a responsibility of doing that, and it’s my turn to help lead a bunch of other guys and gals, moms and dads, who want their kids to be able to go out and skate.”
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In 2020, the group of Singletree dads tapped Mountain Rec to help bring the vision of a neighborhood outdoor rink to life. And for the last two years, a crew of volunteers led by Boyd as well as Mountain Rec staff has built and maintained an ice rink on the parking lot in Freedom Park.
However, according to Brad Johnson, the Edwards facility supervisor for Mountain Rec, the community has really outgrown this single rink.
“At the end of each of our ice rinks seasons, we meet with our volunteers and staff that maintain the rink,” Johnson said. “They really communicated that a second sheet of ice was really needed for the community, for both just regular public skating and also for the people that play hockey.”
To accommodate the space required for two rinks, this year, they will be located just east of the Freedom Park playground near the baseball fields.
In addition to the investments made to bring the second sheet of ice, several infrastructure investments were made to improve the overall experience for constructing and maintaining the rinks. This includes a new water line to service the rinks, a new E-Z Ice system and structure, a hot water machine to resurface the ice as well as hockey nets.
On Sunday, Dec. 11, at 2 p.m., the recreation district is hosting its annual build day, inviting community members to help construct the ice rinks and start layering the ice. And, with the new E-Z Ice system, the build day should be easier than ever.
“It’s like putting together Legos now, it’s so much easier,” Boyd said, adding that with the new system, the construction will include clicking together the boards, laying the liner and pouring the first layer of water.
“(Volunteers) can expect a lot of camaraderie, seeing their neighbors, having some fun. It should be light work, there’s not a ton of heavy lifting, there’s not a ton of difficult tool stuff,” he added. “A lot of it is just getting to know each other and getting signed up for when can you help maintain ice for the rest of the year.”
As Boyd mentioned, the ice is maintained throughout the season — which is expected to kick off around Christmas and go through the end of February, weather dependent, according to Johnson — by community volunteers. This includes daily tasks such as shoveling, brushing off the ice and resurfacing it.
“There’s nothing more satisfying than making your community enjoyable to be in and in this town, we just have an incredible volunteer spirit,” Boyd said. “As soon as we put the word out, everyone does what they can and helps out and helps us not only make the ice but maintain it till about February, depending on the weather.”
In its third year, the community spirit around the outdoor rinks speaks to the need for not only ice, but a hub for gathering and recreating in the winter.
“Ice is precious,” Boyd said. “There’s just such a high demand for it, everybody wants to come out. They want to teach their kid to skate, they can go on a romantic date, skate around outside, they can go out and play hockey, they can learn to skate, and they can do it all in the neighborhood in that outdoor setting.”
For Mountain Recreation, the outdoor rinks epitomize what it’s trying to accomplish in the communities it serves.
“In 2020, the Edwards community approached Mountain Recreation about building an outdoor rink, obviously right in the heart of COVID, the community members were looking at ways to safely recreate, and a community ice rink was a great way to do that,” Johnson said. ”Mountain Recreation sees the benefits in the mental, physical and social-emotional health of our residents, and this is improved by creating and activating spaces that strengthen bonding and connectedness to others in our community.”
In addition to financial contributions from Mountain Rec, Johnson said that investments from the Edwards Metro District, Vail Mountaineer Hockey Club, Mountain Recreation Foundation, Singletree and Vail Honeywagon made the expansion and improvements possible.
Once the crews are able to build up enough ice, the rinks are expected to open around Christmas. After opening, the two new ice rinks will be open to the public starting at 7 a.m. While there will be lights on at night, they will be turned off when the rinks close each evening at 9 p.m. It is expected that one rink will be used for more traditional open skating while the other will be used for drop-in hockey use.
The rink, skates and full sets of hockey gear will be available for free.