A small, but dedicated group of parents and individuals joined with State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) at a Tuesday meeting to work on a plan that would extend the seasonal use of the North End’s Steriti Skating Rink on Commercial Street.
The issue reached a head at the March 2013 Neighborhood Council meeting where a large number of residents showed up to support an extended season at the rink by having it open earlier in the Fall and close later in the Spring.
“I called this public meeting to get residents and DCR on the same page regarding the needs for the community at the Steriti Rink,” said Rep. Michlewitz. DCR owns the public Steriti Rink that is adjacent to other recreations areas including the tennis courts, bocce courts and baseball fields.
The rink currently opens for ice skating in mid-November and closes in mid-March. Residents at the meeting said they would like to extend the season by having the rink open in October and close in April.
An increasing number of North End families, a startup hockey league and new West End apartment residents were all reasons mentioned in favor of increasing utilization of the rink. The recent success of the Boston Bruins, many that live in the North End, has also caused a local surge in the popularity of ice hockey.
Parent and head of North End Youth Hockey, Daniel Toscano, laid out the case for taking the brand new program of 12 kids to the next level by expanding the age groups and offering league competition. “We simply need more skating time through a longer season similar to other communities,” he said.
DCR Director of Government Affairs, Daniel Hunt, acknowledged the Steriti Rink facility is currently underutilized. After seeing the NEWNC video, he said, “I am encouraged by the community interest.” DCR currently operates 8 rinks in metro Boston and would favor more neighborhood presence at the rink. The facility is primarily used by outside groups, such as Suffolk University and overflow from Charlestown.
NEWNC member and Eliot parent, Jorge Mendoza, highlighted the importance of activities outside the classroom for city kids. “This is not the suburbs where there is a lot of room for kids to be active,” he said. “In the city, we need to make the best use of our existing facilities to offer healthy programs for our children.”
Currently, the Eliot K-8 school uses the rink three times a week during public skating sessions. From the Steriti Skate Shop, Fred White, said that other groups currently using the rink would also extend their seasonal use if the rink were open longer.
There was some discussion regarding off-season use of the rink for activities other than ice skating and hockey. White mentioned that the facility is largely unusable in the summer because it simply gets too hot with no air conditioning. DCR said the rink facilities were designed to be most efficient in the winter months.
Spring and Fall use are potentially feasible at the Steriti rink beyond just skating. Although DCR only staffs the facility in the winter, DCR’s Hunt said he would work with community groups to have the non-rink parts of the facility available upon request. Other rinks in Boston are used by walking groups year-round on rainy days.
As a next step, DCR management said they could approach Commissioner Ed Lambert about extending the winter skating season at the rink with more community support. Rep. Michlewitz said he would report back future progress on the issue to the community.