Residents, officials push for Canton rink option

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Nearly two years after the catastrophic roof collapse at Canton’s beloved Metropolis Skating Rink, the state design wheels are finally in motion with the goal of building a new regional ice rink.

The question now is where to locate the new rink, and based on Monday night’s public hearing hosted by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, there appears to be four possible options: three in Canton and one in South Norwood.

The existing rink location is one of the possible sites identified by the DCR. (Moira Sweetland photo)

The existing rink location is one of the four possible sites identified by the DCR. (Moira Sweetland photo)

The potential Canton locations include the site of the existing rink on Route 138; the Indian Line Farm site, also on Route 138 a short distance away from Metropolis; and the former Canton airport site on Neponset Street, which is the current site of a DCR state park.

The proposed Norwood location is near the town pool at the Coakley Middle School off Washington Street in South Norwood.

Many who spoke at the public hearing favored siting the new facility in Canton, including three Norwood residents who said that that part of Norwood is too dense and is not traffic friendly.

Former fire chief and now Conservation Commission member Jim Fitzpatrick said the Neponset Street site is in a good location but it may be too costly because it is located near water and the grade is too steep.

Over 50 people, including several selectmen as well as representatives from Canton Youth Hockey, attended Monday night’s hearing at the Canton Public Library. The DCR will hold a second hearing tonight at 7 p.m. in the Norwood Middle School auditorium.

The DCR has hired Sasaki Associates to conduct a feasibility study to determine the need, best location, traffic impacts, and cost of building a new rink. A preliminary report will be released at a future public hearing in March and a final report will be released in April. The final decision will then be made by DCR Commissioner Leo Roy, who led the public hearing Monday night..

Roy told the Canton Citizen that his decision will be primarily based on the findings of the feasibility study. Roy said he does not expect construction to begin in 2017 but does expect the permitting process to begin sometime this year. He said the insurance claims and the length of the process led to the two-year delay in hosting the public hearing.

The general mood of the hearing was positive as Roy explained that the new rink will be up to state codes; will accommodate hockey and skating for all genders and ages; and will be ADA compliant.

However, Canton selectmen said they were particularly upset about an accusatory statement made by Norwood state Representative John Rogers in a letter sent to Norwood Youth Hockey parents on the need to attend the Norwood hearing. In the letter, Rogers noted that Canton “already has four sheets of ice” and stated that the “town of Canton’s negligence caused the collapse of the Ponkapoag Rink in the first place.”

Although he was not present at the meeting and tried unsuccessfully to participate via Skype, Selectman Victor Del Vecchio made his feelings on the matter quite clear in a Facebook post released on February 9.

“Representative Bill Galvin, Senator Walter Timilty, Selectman John Connolly, and I have advised the state at various meetings that we want a new Ponkapoag Rink built at the same site or on the adjacent Indian Line Farm in Canton,” Del Vecchio said. “Relocating the rink outside Canton (i.e., Norwood) is not acceptable to our community. Rep. John Rogers, on behalf of Norwood, is spreading misleading and inflammatory comments designed to encourage supporters in Norwood to show up at DCR public meetings to advance Norwood’s interests.”

Selectmen Chairman Bob Burr led off the public comment period at Monday’s public hearing by noting that while Canton and Norwood have had a cooperative relationship, he is irate that Rep. Rogers has pointed the finger at Canton.

“There is no evidence or proof of negligence by Canton or any other company,” said Burr. “The roof collapse was one of many all over the area. It was an epic winter of snow. There is no evidence whatsoever of negligence in the insurance reports.”

He also said another aspect of the Rogers letter he found problematic was Rogers’ reference to other rinks in Canton, namely the Canton Sportsplex and the new Canton Ice House. Burr said both are run by private companies while noting that plans for the Ice House were already in the works prior to the collapse at Metropolis.

Burr, as did fellow Selectman John Connolly, pointed to the positive relationship that the town has had with the state for many years as a long-term lessee and manager of Metropolis Rink. “We have a long relationship of success,” Burr said. “The Metropolis Rink is a fabric of the town.”

“The rink is so much a part of Canton,” added Connolly.

The insurance settlement with the town has netted $3.2 million and selectmen are holding the money in hopes of working in concert with the DCR on a new rink plan. Roy did acknowledge the longstanding positive relationship that the DCR has enjoyed with the town of Canton.

Timilty, who attended and spoke at the meeting, and state Rep. Bill Galvin have spoken with Roy about the project and declared their support for a new facility to remain in Canton. Many Canton speakers, including selectmen and other residents, pointed to the rink as a home for families and the local youth hockey program dating back to 1980. One by one, residents pointed to the friendly atmosphere and affordable prices at a public skating facility.

Nick Maffeo, president of Canton Youth Hockey, said the program now services 575 boys and girls. “We would love to expand the program, but there are ice-time limitations,” he said. “We are so happy the Ice House is up and running, but there is only so much they can do. We are still renting out space in Quincy, Randolph and Stoughton. We would love to see a public facility in Canton.”

Nick Pirelli, assistant director of Canton Parks and Recreation, issued a statement from the Parks and Recreation Commission, noting that the commission strongly supports the town of Canton operating an ice rink in cooperation with the DCR. “Managing an ice rink provides an affordable option for residents and groups to take part in popular winter recreation activities,” the statement said. “For decades the rink was home to generations of families who are passionate about the sport of hockey and has become a tradition in the town of Canton. The rink not only served the needs of Canton residents, but our neighboring communities. A municipal-managed, multi-purpose rink continues to be a priority for the Playground and Recreation Commission as evidenced by the learn-to-skate participation, public skating attendance, and need for affordable ice time.”

Roy said any resident wishing to comment has until March 2 and can submit their comments online at mass.gov/eea/agecies/dcr/public-outreach/submit-public-comments, or in writing to the DCR at Office of Public Outreach, 251 Causeway St., Suite 600, Boston, MA 02114.

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