Stormwater lakes are no place for the next Gretzky to skate

City warns that stormwater lakes and ponds are never safe for recreational use

Edmontonians love to play a pickup hockey game or practice their skating moves on the closest patch of ice. While parents provide support with cheers and steadying hands, they may not realize that frozen stormwater lakes and ponds are unsafe places to play. Although these constructed lakes found in many local neighbourhoods may look like natural bodies of water, they actually perform an important role in our stormwater system.

They are designed to protect our communities from flooding and to clean stormwater (water from rain or snowfall that is not absorbed in the ground and becomes runoff). Since water continually moves within stormwater lakes and ponds, their ice thickness is unpredictable. There may be weak areas, especially near underwater inlets and outlets, that can give way at any moment.

(Permission to use from City of Calgary)
(Permission to use from City of Calgary)

Salt also flows into the ponds and lakes from roads, helping to speed up ice melt. Most of the stormwater lakes and ponds are interconnected, with as many as 10 or 12 in a row. As a result, melting conditions upstream can melt ice faster downstream. That’s why it’s so important to obey the safety signs even if everything appears fine on the surface.

As much as we know our local hockey team can use more Gretzkys, the City’s concern for public safety will continue, as our city continues to grow and build more stormwater lakes and ponds. As we move into spring, and the temperatures rise, the public risk increases as the ice begins to slowly weaken and melt.

Edmonton Fire Rescue Services would also like to remind citizens that fluctuating water levels cause the ice thickness to vary across the length and breadth of the North Saskatchewan River, posing a significant risk to the public. The North Saskatchewan River is a powerful, deceptive, fast-moving river; snow and ice on the North Saskatchewan River is never safe to walk on.

So please keep your mini-Gretzkys safe by only using approved public outdoor ice skating surfaces. The City maintains both ground and pond ice rinks in major parks while many local community leagues also manage their own outdoor rinks.

Sidebar: If someone falls through the ice in a stormwater pond or lake, do you know how to get them out safely without putting yourself in harm’s way?  

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