Campaigners marched through Hemel Hempstead town centre today (Friday) in a last-ditch attempt to try to save their beloved ice rink.
Members of the Save Hemel Ice Rink group – who are nervously awaiting news of whether Jarman Park’s Planet Ice can stay open past its original D-day this Sunday – walked from Debenhams at Riverside Shopping Centre down to the Civic Centre on Marlowes.
The group carried placards and directed chants of ‘Shame on you, save our rink’ at the headquarters of Dacorum Borough Council. A petition with more than 8,000 signatures from across Herts has already been handed in to councillors. Banners carried messages such as ‘We want an ice rink, not more restaurants’.
Liberal Democrat representative for Herts County Council and the borough council Ron Tindall, whose ward St Pauls borders on the entertainment complex, walked with the group to support their cause.
He said: “The local Liberal Democrats are pleased to support the call for urgent action to ensure that Jarman Park is returned to its former glory, including the ice rink.
“I used to take my grandchildren there – and to the bowling alley – but the place has disintegrated.
“Where else are people going to go? We are trying to create a Hemel economy but we are driving out all the entertainment. People will end up going to Watford or St Albans, and they will be taking their money with them.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Lloyd Harris also took part in the march, saying: “I got involved as it is an important public facility and I am fed up of Hemel losing facility after facility.
“After speaking to the chair of the action group I have been convinced of the business case to maintain the ice rink and that it would generate more customers for Leisure World than a bowling alley, thereby making the whole site more profitable.”
The campaign was led by skating teacher Steven Da Costa, who said: “This is really just to show that we really care about the ice rink – it’s our home away from home, it’s our family, and it means an awful lot to us.
“This march is to continue raising awareness and to show everybody that this facility is something that should be cared about.
“It is a great service to the community and it has a great community behind it.”
Protestors also cited the health benefits of the rink to children in an age of obesity and reliance on technology. One supporter of the cause said: “At a time when everyone is concerned about children’s lack of exercise and obesity, it seems pointless to close down the ice rink where they can be active.”
The Save Hemel Ice Rink group is waiting to hear from current site operators Capital and Regional on whether the venue can stay open longer than its expected closing date this Sunday.