One Silver Lining in a Cruel Winter

January 21, 1994

From the unrelenting frigid assaults of a cruel winter, we can snatch some comforting solace in the return of ice skating to Carroll County ponds.

What could be more of an old-fashioned celebration of winter than pond skating? An evocation of Currier and Ives prints, a gelid prelude to a communal bonfire and a cup of hot cider, an al fresco social center for the spiritually snowbound and victims of cabin fever. And good, refreshing physical exercise for everyone who likes to lace up and glide over the frozen surface (and hazard the rude bump of a fall).

It's been nearly a decade since the Department of Recreation and Parks abandoned its supervision of winter skating on Westminster Community Pond and Piney Run Lake. Changes in temperatures and relatively warm winters made it unsafe to allow the ponds to be used for skating.

But this year's early and persistent hyperborean temperatures have created a thick enough ice-cap over four ponds to allow for public skating. They include the Westminster, North Carroll and Union Mills ponds and the shallow end of Piney Run, affording an opportunity for all parts of the county to participate in local recreation.

Parks crews have checked out the thickness of the pond ice for nearly three weeks to vouch for the relative safety of the traditional winter activity. But skaters will venture onto the outdoor rinks at their own risk, and younger children must be accompanied by an adult. "The county does not guarantee the safety of the ice," emphasizes recreation director Richard J. Soisson.

For all the nostalgia and the wintry pleasure we enjoy in skating over a mirror of open ice, there is a sobering thought of the potential danger, one that has led governments and individuals to take a more cautious attitude. Older generations will recall at least one incident of death or near disaster from unregulated skating on ponds, whether community or private.

So it was that Mr. Soisson confirmed the decision to open Carroll's community ponds to ice skating with the assurance to the county commissioners that "our attorneys are satisfied." Warning signs are being posted advising of individual risk, the "no skating" placards will go up as temperatures warm. But for now, let us enjoy the restored joy of skating on the pond, unworried by the legal caveats and unhindered by the artificial restraints of indoor ice rinks. Hurrah for the return of a traditional winter pastime.

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