Towns, residents skating on thin ice

The major drawback of the property, owned by the Ballston Spa School District, is that there's lots of drainage underfoot, great in the spring for keeping the soccer fields from becoming quick sand, not so great for soaking up a base for an ice rink.

"We moved it over here by the fence to try and hit a spot that didn't drain right out, but so far, no luck," said Regis.

The sprawling field, with its great central location in the village, also has a spacious warming facility with bathrooms and vending machines, owned by the Ballston Area Recreation Commission. In previous years, people donated skates on shelves lining the building, but this year, those skates might be staying on those shelves.

"We're at the mercy of Mother Nature," Regis said of the wildly fluctuating temperatures, particularly since Christmas.

Harnessing the forces

of nature

Saturday morning, Jan. 26, at the Burgess-Kimball Memorial Park, the town of Milton's largest and most popular facility located a snowball's throw from town hall, the outdoor rink looked like was just groomed by a Zamboni.

The football field-sized rink is the pet project of town supervisor Frank Thompson, who keeps an eye on the ice like a loving parent.

"We use a propane blow torch to smooth out those bumps there," said Thompson, pointing to tiny impressions on the surface. "They're fine for hockey skates, but you get kids out here with figure skates, hitting a bump could make them stumble."

This is the town's third year offering a free, outdoor municipal rink, and Thompson said he's learned a few tricks of the trade.

"We start out with a lawn sprinkler so it doesn't put down heavy water; the lighter water forms a crusty base," said Thompson. "Then, we were out here for 34 hours straight flooding it with 4,000 gallons of water."

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