Ponds open to skaters as cold thickens the ice

January 14, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

The county Department of Recreation and Parks has found one advantage to the frigid temperatures gripping the region.

"We are reviving the county's good tradition of ice skating on community ponds," said Richard J. Soisson, department director, yesterday. "This year, the ice is thick enough and the temperatures are cold enough to allow ice skating."

Skating is limited to Union Mills, Westminster and North Carroll community ponds and the shallow end of Piney Run Lake. County crews will check ice for thickness frequently at the four sites, which Mr. Soisson called the safest.

"There are some sites we could never allow, like the Farm Museum pond where springheads cause uneven ice to form," said Mr. Soisson.

G. Michael Whitson, chief of the Bureau of Land Management and Maintenance, said crews have checked the ponds for two weeks and have determined "there is enough ice out there." Geographic considerations also figured into the selection of sites, he said.

"We are covering all areas of the county and giving each sector an opportunity to skate," said Mr. Whitson.

Mr. Soisson repeated warnings posted on signs at all the ponds.

"Residents skate at their own risk," he said. "The county does not guarantee the safety of the ice. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult."

When conditions change, "no skating" notices can be bolted over the signs.

In a meeting with the county commissioners yesterday, Mr. Soisson said, "We are comfortable with the policy as long as we follow the standards."

Commissioner Donald I. Dell called the policy reasonable "as long as you keep checking."

Mr. Soisson said, "There are assumed risks with any activity, but we have reviewed the policy and our attorneys are satisfied."

The county had a formal skating policy through the early 1980s and supervised the Westminster Community Pond and Piney Run Lake.

Warm spells and temperature fluctuations in recent winters made it impossible for the ponds to remain open for skaters, said Mr. Soisson.

Mr. Whitson said that this winter "seems to be in a new weather pattern" and reviving the policy is "workable." Crews will test frequently to monitor melting.

"Most people don't realize ice melts from the bottom up," he said.

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