A group of roughly 30 Bayville residents gathered outside Village Hall last Saturday to hear Mayor Bob De Natale’s plans for a beloved ice rink. Once a popular recreational site, it has not been maintained for years, and the 100-foot wooded trail leading to it is overgrown and blocked by fallen trees.
Paul Mager and a large group of volunteers had planned to revitalize the rink and wooded trail that day, but De Natale did not allow it. It was a question of liability, he said, suggesting that people volunteer next year in November or December.
“We never wanted to do a major renovation, just make the path manageable and the rink sign larger,” Mager said. “I don’t know why we had to climb over trees to get to the rink. Why didn’t DPW clear it?”
De Natale promised to have the Department of Public Works do a cleanup. When asked on Saturday why that had not been done sooner, De Natale said that the DPW had to focus on snow removal.
Paul Rupp, a former mayor who opened the rink in three of the four years of his term, agreed with De Natale that snow removal had to come first. “We had some severe snowstorms,” Rupp said. “I would rather have had the roads cleared. The guys in DPW, they work hard, but I guess they could have been pushed.”
When Rupp was mayor, then village Trustee Tim Charon, Rupp and eight parents maintained the rink, taking turns filling it with water each night.
The ice is created in layers. A week of sub-20-degee weather is required to freeze the ground for the initial layer of ice at the base. Then, in order to add to it, three to four days of cold weather are needed. No one had filled the rink this year, and on Saturday there was nothing but dirt in the middle of it.
Mager posted photos of the rink on Facebook, which included graffiti and missing handrails, as well as the fallen trees on the path. He had a large following. Some residents reminisced about what the rink was like when they were children but others complained bitterly about the ineptitude of the village. The posts were even more critical, and in a few cases abusive, after Mager wrote that the planned cleanup was had been canceled.
De Natale thanked the residents for stopping by on Saturday, adding that there was no reason why the village could not put more effort into keeping the path to the rink clear. But he said he was troubled.
“I was a little turned off by comments on Facebook,” he said. “I am personally offended by the negative comments about the hard working people in Village Hall.”
De Natale asked that residents call the village if they had complaints and not post them on social media. He promised that the Recreation Committee would take charge going forward to get the rink ready.
Some changes had already been made by Saturday. The empty shed marred with graffiti that had stood near the ice had been removed and a vandalized sign was taken down too. Snow surrounding the rink had been plowed as well as in the surrounding area.
De Natale said the village had plans to replace the small sign indicating there is an ice skating rink with a larger one. New handrails will be added and the path will be cleared of the trees. He also said that a guard needed to be present if people were skating, which some of the residents said had never been the case in the past.
Mager asked trustee Valerie Belcher, the chair of the Recreation Committee, when the group last met. She said that with Covid everything had been put on hold and that no meetings had been held in quite a while. She committed to helping restore the rink.
Maria Alfano-Hardy, the village clerk, said that an arborist had already looked at the trees to determine how many the village could eliminate. Carrying a clipboard, she added suggestion made by residents for further renovations.
“It’s frustrating, Mager said, “because the little we wanted to do could have been done by now.”
Mark Bruderman, who moved to Bayville 2 years ago said it was the recreational opportunities that drew him to the village. “It’s not just about the skating rink,” he said. “I want for us to have something to do. We could have Christmas Eve here with hot chocolate.”
Bonnie Hill, a fourth generation resident, said she could not understand why getting the rink going again was an issue. Years ago, children would shovel snow off the rink. It was a popular place where people gathered to drink hot chocolate as they watched adults and children skate.
“You have a volunteer force here that want to help,” she said. “There are also kids that need community service hours that could help.”
She remembered how much the rink meant to resident Buddy Kahn, who died in 2017. “If a leaf fell on the ice he would tiptoe out and take it away,” Hill said. “He is probably rolling in his grave with how it looks now.”