READING – City officials this week ordered the temporary closure of the outdoor ice rinks in Sturges Park due to alleged acts of vandalism.
According to a message sent to residents by the Reading Department of Public Works (DPW), city workers were ordered to drain the water from both skating rinks after trash was found strewn throughout Walnut Street Park over the weekend.
The city tour was made aware of the problem by a citizen complaint filed online on Sunday afternoon. Upon inspecting the area the following day, DPW managers declared the area unsafe.
The dedicated outdoor recreation areas are expected to be restored later this winter, but city officials have not set a date for that reopening.
“The city received reports of vandalism over the weekend via SeeClickFix and upon inspection today found the ice to be unsafe for skating due to tree branches, rocks, a trash can, dog poop bags, plastic bottles and other objects thrown onto and embedded in the ice” , explained Monday’s message to citizens.
“Crews will empty the rinks to safely clean the area and then reopen them at a future date yet to be determined,” city officials added.
Local police are investigating the alleged acts of vandalism and are asking for the public’s help in identifying the perpetrators. Those who may have information as to when the incident occurred — as well as those who may have captured video footage through doorbell cameras of those responsible — are asked to contact the police non-emergency number at 781-944-1212.
According to city records, a local resident noticed that the public ice rinks had been vandalized by vandals around 4 p.m. Sunday. Warmer weather over the weekend allowed some of the objects lodged in the ice to be pulled off the partially frozen surface.
“Unfortunately someone seems to have decided to roll this trash can into the pond. The garbage can is half in the water, but it’s not frozen yet. There’s a pile of rubbish scattered around, some on the ice itself,” wrote the local resident, who snapped a photo of the vandalism and uploaded it to the City of Reading’s website.
According to city historians, Sturges Park has been home to the outdoor skating areas since the land was first donated to the community in 1949.
Notably, the original 7-acre lot at Walnut Street and Pine Ridge Road was gifted to Reading by the late Alan Sturges, whose father-in-law served on the city’s recreation commission, according to information compiled by the public library and community resident Rachel Baumgartner. Originally used only for passive recreation and the winter ice rink, other sports areas such as baseball and soccer fields were later built on the site.