'So typically Canadian': Markham teen wants city to allow skating at Milne Pond without 'constant intimidation'
'The risk of thin ice is very real': city renews safety warning to stay off ice on ponds, streams, lakes
Feb. 22, 2021
The scene of skaters gliding on eight carefully groomed rinks at Markham’s Milne Pond is like something out of a classic Canadian postcard.
Until bylaw officers arrive and chase the skaters away.
“You come out here and talk to anyone and they’ll tell you how awesome skating out here is,” said 17-year-old Dan Santos, adding the bylaw officers who came Feb. 20 were friendly.
Santos, along with his brother Josh, 20, and a group of others who have come to be known as the Milne Pond Hockey Club spend many hours a week maintaining the rinks.
The group has now launched a petition asking the city to revisit its bylaws to allow recreational skating at the site beginning next winter.
In less than 24 hours, more than 500 people signed the petition, Santos said.
The petition, at change.org/p/the-city-of-markham-freedom-to-skate-and-play-hockey-on-milne-pond, reflects the club’s frustration.
It talks about residents being subject to “constant intimidation and threats of fines” and urges the city to let skaters on the rinks “without hassle.”
The petition comes as the city reissued a safety warning to residents Feb. 9 telling them to stay off ice on stormwater ponds, streams and bodies of water in parks.
"Despite the recent news coverage of children losing their lives by falling through the ice over ponds and lakes, the city continues to see residents out on storm ponds, park ponds and streams," a spokesperson for the city said.
In December, an 11-year-old boy died after falling through the ice on a stormwater management pond in Milton.
“The risk of thin ice is very real this winter,” the spokesperson said, adding unseen currents can make outdoor ice dangerous.
Santos insists the rinks on Milne Pond are safe.
“I agree, I don’t want anyone skating on something that’s not safe, but the ice is very safe. I’ve measured it in over 15 places and we measure it every couple of days,” he said, adding the last measurement showed the ice is 14-inches thick.
“To put that in perspective for you, a small car can drive on the ice at eight inches so we’re currently (almost) double that.”
The rinks provide an outlet for residents, especially during COVID-19 restrictions, Santos said.
“Kids are stuck at home. This is such a great way for them to get out safely. It’s good for their mental health to be out in the fresh air,” he said.
“It’s something that’s important to all of us because it’s something that’s so typically Canadian. It’s been going on for, oh my goodness, ever since Canada and the game of hockey was invented. Canadian boys and girls go out on the pond and skate and play hockey.”
Resident Andrea Winarski applauds the work of Santos and the other volunteers maintaining the rinks.
“I think this is an incredible story about a young leader in our community who is making a real difference in the lives of many Markham residents,” she said.
“It is a reminder of the good in our world in a time of overwhelming negativity.”