Small communities are filled with unsung heroes who make them tick, and Merrickville is no exception. Bill Presley is one such individual. He is responsible for flooding and maintaining two outdoor ice rinks – one in Merrickville, and one in Easton’s Corners. One would be hard pressed to think of a more Canadian job.
Bill retired at the age of 60, and after only a few short years, he started getting bored and was seeking something to pass the time. He was hired to work at the Merrickville landfill two days per week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It wasn’t long before he was asked if he could also be in charge of managing the two local ice rinks. Bill offered to do the job for free, but was told he needed to be paid for liability reasons. He accepts minimal compensation considering the heavy work he puts in.
What is the process involved in maintaining an outdoor ice rink? There is more to it than most people would realize. A fire hose is used to flood the ice in a quick sweeping motion, with several coats often being applied in succession, with some time to freeze in between. When defects in the ice are found, they are filled with slush and covered with a pilon until it can re-freeze. The ice rinks’ posted opening times are 8 am to 10 pm. There are different time slots allotted for family skating and hockey times.
With this being Bill’s second year of being in charge of the ice at the two rinks, he is finding that this year’s weather has made the job harder than last year. Last year, weather conditions generally allowed Bill to simply focus on flooding the ice when it would be cold enough, and clearing snow from it any time it snowed. This year, Bill explained that the job has been “hour by hour” as opposed to “day by day”. “It’s like making a cake,” Bill joked. “You gotta watch it”.
One of the duties of caring for the ice is to frequently drive by and check on it. With this responsibility comes a difficult task – instilling respect for the ice. When the ice is soft or not usable, people must stay off of it to avoid damaging the ice surface, which can create challenges for maintaining a smooth ice surface as temperatures fall back down. Similarly, helping to enforce hockey times is part of the job as well. Bill tries to be fair when it comes to ice use – for example, if only a few people are on the ice with some wanting to skate and others wanting to play hockey, he will turn the hockey nets so that a game can be played side-to-side without pucks flying at those who just wish to skate.
Ultimately, much of the work involved in maintaining the ice is “extra” that Bill does for free out of kindness. His wife, Lauri often helps as well. “She gives me a hand, many times and works for love,” added Bill. “Extra” duties include the monitoring of the ice, opening and closing each day, and the driving back and forth between the two rinks. This year especially, Bill describes maintaining the ice as a “24 hour job”, wherein he is often only getting a few hours of sleep at a time before having to go back out again. It is without a doubt that neighborhood kids (and adults) certainly appreciate it, even if they don’t always get the chance to say “thank you”. Great work, Bill
Bill is a true asset to our community, and an all round nice guy, thank you bill for your dedication.
Bill is a true asset to our community, and a all round nice guy, thank you bill for your dedication.