The Spear Farm Estuary Preserve in Yarmouth is an ideal place to test-run cross-country skis on loan from community services. Courtesy

YARMOUTH — In the hope of encouraging kids to “be on the go,” Yarmouth Community Services loans out a variety of winter sports equipment, including nordic skis, ice skates and snowshoes.

Karyn MacNeill, the community services director, said her department began loaning out the seasonal sports gear about 10 years ago in response to requests from residents and a desire to get people outside to enjoy the town’s parks and open spaces all year long.

While the loans are mostly geared toward youth, she said community services does have snowshoes and skates in multiple sizes, including some for adults. However, all 52 pairs of cross-country skis have already been loaned out for the season.

Yarmouth Community Services has shoeshoes and skates to lend to residents this winter. Courtesy

MacNeill said outfitting kids for winter sports can get expensive – particularly because they grow so much between seasons – so it made sense for community services to lend sporting equipment.

MacNeill said skis, boots and poles go for $80 for the season. Snowshoes can be borrowed for $5 a day and ice skates are free. However, she said the town-operated Blake Skating Pond off Main Street is not yet open for the season. MacNeill said at least 7 inches of ice would be needed, and so far the nights have not been cold enough.

MacNeill said several of Yarmouth’s parks are particularly beautiful in the winter, especially Pratt’s Brook, which can be accessed off North Road, and the Spear Farm Estuary Preserve, off Bayview Street.

Both are good for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, she said, and the Spear Farm property offers what MacNeill called “stunning views” of the Royal River and the ocean. For a smaller loop that might be easier for kids just learning to ski or snowshoe, the 3/4-mile trail at the Tinker Preserve on Cousins Island could work well.

With the winter equipment loans, MacNeill said, it’s hoped that getting outside in all seasons “will become a lifelong habit.”

Anyone interested in borrowing equipment or making a donation can go online to yarmouthcommunityservices.org or call 846-2406.  In addition to sports equipment, community services is now also accepting donations of winter clothing, from boots and hats to mittens and scarves.

Without access to the proper equipment and clothing, enjoying outdoor winter activities can be difficult, Josh Harrington, the family programs and outreach manager at WinterKids, said.

“It’s very important for kids to be active in the winter because it helps build a healthy lifestyle and a passion for outdoor recreation. At WinterKids we like to say there’s no such thing as bad weather,” Harrington said.

To that end, WinterKids is hosting a free Welcome to Winter event from 12:30-2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, at Payson Park in Portland.

“This is a great to introduce winter to families and show what you can do (outdoors),” Harrington said.

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