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Family’s at-home rink provides safe outdoor fun

This winter’s cold temperatures have made for perfect ice skating conditions outdoors. For many families in town, this time of year calls for a skating trip to the frozen Bare Hill Pond, but for some, a step into their own backyards is all that’s necessary for winter fun.

The Glew family has built its own ice skating rink each winter for the past three years. Megan Glew, the mother of two middle school-age hockey players, Conor and Liam, spoke to the Press about her family’s tradition. With their own personal rink, she said, “We always have the opportunity to skate, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Glew said her boys had asked to build an ice rink a few years ago after skating at their hockey teammates’ houses. The family decided to purchase a skating rink kit of their own and has been building their own every winter since.

“We have been fortunate because the last few winters have been good weather-wise,” she said, noting that “it’s always a bit of a risk” whether it will be cold enough for the ice to remain frozen. 

Before building their own rink, Glew said her kids would sometimes skate at a fire pond in town or at a now-discontinued rink in Stow. However, having the right weather conditions to skate on a pond is even riskier, as melting ice poses a safety hazard. An at-home rink solves this issue. “It’s more predictable than the pond,” Glew said.

Mark L’Ecuyer runs the snowblower in preparation for flooding the rink at Bare Hill Pond. L’Ecuyer is part of a regular group of volunteers working to keep the Bare Hill Pond rink clear for skating.(Courtesy photo)

The Glews aren’t the only family to build their own rink, however––DIY ice rinks have been spotted throughout Harvard. Particularly as public ice rinks are closed this season due to state COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, many residents have taken to constructing their own.

Glew described the fairly simple process of building a rink from a starter kit. An inexpensive kit costs upwards of a couple hundred dollars, depending on the size of the rink, and can be purchased from many online retailers. Dick’s Sporting Goods lists a 15-by-30-foot kiddie backyard rink for $2,100, but offers inflatable rinks for substantially less. 

Kits include a lining for the base and plastic pieces that are snapped together to create the sides of the rink. “It’s almost like putting Legos together,” Glew said, “and it takes about 45 minutes.” While rinks can also be built more traditionally out of wood, she recommends this newer invention because it makes both maintenance and storage considerably easier. Starting with a kit also makes it simple to adjust the size of the rink, Glew continued, since plastic section pieces can easily be added or removed.

Since this type of rink doesn’t need to be secured into the ground at the base, it can be built at any time during the fall or winter. “You don’t have to worry about the ground freezing,” Glew noted, whereas when drilling into the ground to build a wooden rink, one must do so before the first frost. She said this winter her family built the rink in the last week of December and has been able to skate on it consistently since then. 

“We learned a lot each season,” Glew said about the process of building and maintaining an ice skating rink.

This winter the Glew family is especially thankful for their rink. Due to the pandemic, friends can’t come over to hang out with the kids unless they play outside, she said, and having an ice rink means they always have a fun activity to do. “They love having friends over,” she said. “That’s the best thing [about the rink], and they can be outside.”

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