Jack Oddi, 3, accompanied by his mother, Kristina Wilson, tried skating for the first time at West Brook Skating Rink in Biddeford on a recent day. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — On a recent sunny day, 3-year-old Jack Oddi had a new adventure. It was his first time ice skating and his momentous day took place at a favorite spot for many residents of Biddeford, West Brook Skating Rink on Pool Street.

When his mom Kristina Wilson strapped a pair of skates on her son, Jack was ready. She helped him stand up to make sure his feet were all the way inside, and then the two made their way to the ice at West Brook Skating Rink.

Before embarking, Jack chose a blue wooden skate aid — one of several in a palate of primary colors, donated by the University of New England. Then his mother placed one hand on the frame and her other on the boy, and the pair began to inch along the ice.

The facilities at West Brook Skating Rink in Biddeford got some much needed upgrades in 2021, including a new floor for the interior of the lodge and a new roof, lights for night skating, and a host of other improvements. Here, some of the Friends of Westbrook Skating Rink – Steve Audie, Paul Therrien and Marty Grohman, who talked about the work with a reporter –  pause for a photo. Tammy Wells Photo

It was Jack’s first skate – undoubtedly one of many to come. And it is for moments like this one, and for the many other skaters who make memories  skating under the lights or in speedskating competitions of days gone by, that make West Brook Skating Rink Biddeford’s icy jewel.

But it takes a lot of work to ensure the ice is ready for skaters each year. Over the last several years, numerous projects have been undertaken to make sure the rink is ready. In 2021, many in the community volunteered their time to make sure little boys like Jack and people of all ages can experience the pleasure of ice skating.

To get ready for the winter, work begins in the summer. For instance, cutting back the cattails is something that takes place during warm weather.

“If we wait, it is so difficult,” to keep the vegetation down, said Paul Therrien, a former speed skater with the Maine Bladesman Skating Club who had many a practice at West Brook Skating Rink. Therrien remembers competing at the Silver Skates Derby at Boston Garden for three seasons in the 1950s. He spoke of speed skaters like Dan Gagne and barrel jumper Don Giroux, both who also graced the ice at West Brook.

Besides keeping the vegetation down, a lot more work was accomplished last year, like  constructing a sorely needed new roof, electrical upgrades, work near the dam, and a lot more.

There were 48 days of skating at West Brook last season, and 23 days the season before  — good ice depends on the weather — and  everyone is hoping this season will last even longer.

West Brook has been around for about 100 years but faltered a few years ago and then began an upward swing that continues.

Jack Oddi, 3, is all smiles as his mother, Kristina Wilson buckles his skates in preparation for his debut on the ice at West Brook Skating Rink. Tammy Wells Photo

“It’s been building a head of steam,” said Marty Grohman of Friends of West Brook Skating Rink. The Friends group concentrated on getting the ice in shape first, and then moving on to other needs.

Therrien and Lionel Beaudoin filled 200 sandbags to help shore up the old dam.

UNE facilities manager Greg McKellar has helped, and the educational institution has donated new lights to the rink. Electrician Steve Audie installed all new conduits, and students from the electrical program at Biddeford Regional Center of Technology helped. Grohman said the students worked a couple of days pulling wire and the like.

Norm Trudeau keeps the equipment — the four-wheeler, snow blower and lawn mower in tip top condition, said Therrien.

ABC Supply provided shingles for the lodge installed by roofer Justin Caron, said Grohman.

All these individuals, businesses and institutions contributed to improvements at West Brook Skating Rink in 2021. Tammy Wells Photo

“The lodge was in pretty bad shape,” he said. Parts of the floor had rotted over time — there is a new one now — and the roof had been a mess.

One night, Grohman said he arrived to find water running down the walls — where all the photos and memorabilia of feats of days gone by had been hung. The good news is the pictures and framed news stories are safe. Grohman took them to photographer Joe McKenney for safekeeping.

At some point, he said, “we’ll have a party,” to celebrate all the good work and to reinstall the memorabilia.

And, he hinted, if anyone has a copy of the Maine Bladesman logo, the Friends of West Brook Skating Rink would be pleased to hang it among the other historical pieces.

So many took part in helping get West Brook Skating Rink back in shape that the lodge now sports a sign outside, listing those who took part.

Skating at West Brook is free, and those who do not have skates may borrow them from among the 500 donated pairs. The rink is open when the flag is out, and the status is also posted on Facebook. Grohman said Mike Bolduc has been staffing the snack bar – skating can build up an appetite.

Back on the ice, and encouraged by Therrien and Grohman, young Jack took some tentative glides, hanging on to the skating aid with his mom. He went down at one point, but it was a cushioned landing. Jack was undeterred and got right back at it.

“The beauty of it is,” said Therrien of the rink on Pool Street named for the West Brook, “Is that all the kids — and the parents — love it.”

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