POOLESVILLE, Md. - A Poolesville man's tribute to his stepdaughter -- a place called Mel's Rink -- has been a magnet for neighborhood kids looking for winter fun in recent days. All of them have been flocking to the place after Marc Kohn began advertising the rink on Facebook.
But county officials have slapped restrictions on the place out of safety concerns and now want to know more about Kohn's intentions.
The ice is not real, there are no boards or glass to bang into and there is no Zamboni. But to the kids who live in this rural area of Montgomery County, it is a place to slip and slide and shoot pucks into a regulation net.
Kohn decided to build the rink on his own in his own backyard after grieving the loss of his stepdaughter Melanie.
"When Melanie died in July, I thought it was the right time,” he said. “It was cathartic. I had to do something with my time or I would go crazy.”
Melanie Osborne was just 35 years old when she died in July because of a respiratory disease. She was a nurse who loved hockey.
"Her favorite thing in life was to go to a Caps game, especially a playoff game,” said Kohn. “If you were a boyfriend of hers, you got to go to Caps games.”
So with Melanie on his mind, Kohn began constructing the rink in his backyard using synthetic materials for ice on top of gravel and pallets. He even put up lights.
But after advertising the fun on Facebook, it is one of the first things county officials told him he had to take down.
"I got a call from the director of permitting yesterday saying that this had become too public and that the area this house is in, the agricultural reserve, doesn't support any type of play area unless it’s related to horses or equestrian events,” Kohn told us.
And that is just part of the problem. Diane Schwartz-Jones, the director of Permitting Services for Montgomery County, said she wants to make sure the place is safe, and without the proper permits, Kohn was hit with a notice of violation.
Schwartz-Jones said she wants to meet with Kohn next week to discuss his intentions for the rink.
In the meantime, Kohn has been asked not to advertise on Facebook.
Despite the controversy the rink was busy on New Year’s Even with parents and grandparents wanting to take advantage of the fun.
"I'm very impressed with what he is doing for the community,” said one visitor. “I know our grandkids, since they came here the first time, they all want to be here all the time.”
"I think it was really nice of him because people can just jump in the car whenever they want and just head on over here instead of driving over to Frederick County or Dickerson or something,” said 10-year-old Cooper Paksima.
He wore his skates on the ice today and said he would love to come back.