East Gwillimbury urges residents to stop skating on stormwater ponds
Town encouraging residents to use 2 outdoor rinks in Mount Albert Community Park, Holland Landing
Feb. 17, 2021
While the COVID-19 pandemic has given many residents a case of cabin fever, the thirst for outdoor recreation is at an all-time high.
And while that may be a good thing, the Town of East Gwillimbury is concerned people are skating on stormwater management ponds that aren’t safe.
Jeff Meggitt, director of operations for the town, said there has been an increase of people skating on the 35 stormwater ponds in the municipality.
“The challenge with a stormwater pond is that it’s really an engineered facility and the water level changes unpredictably,” he said. “You can’t really trust it. It tends to change and it can be an extremely dangerous situation.”
While the town did see a little use in prior years on the ponds, Meggitt said it has been a bigger issue this year due to the lack of options for people because of the lockdown.
Ward 3 Coun. Scott Crone said residents have reached out to him concerned with what they are seeing on stormwater management ponds in Mount Albert.
“I have heard feedback on them that we have been skating on them for years and years,” he said. “Nothing bad happens until something bad happens.”
The run-off that goes into a stormwater management pond makes for unsafe conditions, Crone added. He referenced a tragic incident that occurred in Milton in December. In that case, an 11-year-old boy died after falling through the ice with his friend.
Crone said in the long run the situation could get worse with climate change, adding that it might be time for discussion at the council table about outdoor refrigerated rinks. While Crone acknowledged the high price tag for outdoor rinks, he said it would extend the time people could skate outside.
Fellow Ward 3 Coun. Cathy Morton shared safety concerns, saying the signs the town has put up around the ponds should help warn residents of the dangers.
Even with temperatures that have been below freezing for weeks, the condition of the ponds would surprise many, Meggitt said. On Nature Way Crescent in the Harvest Hill subdivision, just south of Green Lane, Meggitt said the pond, which has been cleared by residents for skating, has open water on it.
“It’s pretty cool out so that’s surprising for people,” he said. “We’re encouraging people to use the safe approach because ... we don’t want something tragic to happen on one of the ponds.”
The water that goes into a stormwater management pond comes from catch basins along the road, Meggitt explained. He said the water is above freezing when it enters the pond and contains salt, for example, which raises its freezing temperature.
The town is working with York Regional Police as well as bylaw department to educate people and ask them to leave the ice.
“We have not charged anyone to my knowledge and that is not our approach. We really want people to be aware of the dangers,” Meggitt said.
The town is encouraging residents to use the outdoor rinks at Mount Albert Community Park and Ridgeview Park in Holland Landing.
Registration takes place every Monday for the following Tuesday to Monday.
To register for a time slot, visit www.eastgwillimbury.ca/skate.
The skating rink hours of operations are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The town said ice surfaces are not to be used outside of operating hours and will be monitored by town staff.Skating sessions are available in 45-minute time slots and rink capacity is 25 per time slot.