Okotoks storm ponds still off limits
Community: Council told ice on storm ponds unpredictable
By: Darlene Casten
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013 06:00 am
Okotoks town council will not be giving its blessing to skating on its storm pond and one local resident says it’s the right move.
Anne Wahlund was out snowshoeing with her husband in the Air Ranch area three years ago when she fell through the ice. When her husband came close to help her out, he also fell through.
The couple never meant to walk on the ice. Wahlund said the snow was so thick that year it wasn’t obvious where the shoreline started. They were also so engrossed in their walk that they failed to notice they had ventured out on the storm pond, Wahlund said.
“You start walking and the sun is out and the snow is perfect,” Wahlund said. “If we had been paying more attention we would have known.”
They were about five feet out from the shore when Wahlund broke through. She said she landed knee-deep in icy-cold water.
“I couldn’t get my snowshoes off,” she recalled.
She was able to pull herself back on top of the snow and crawled back to solid land.
The experience reminded her of something she already knew, Wahlund said, stay off frozen ponds.
“It was dangerous,” she said. “It was scary.”
Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson and councillor Ed Sands made inquiries about the use of storm ponds when two Crystal Ridge residents asked council to allow skating to be permitted.
Currently there is signage at storm ponds advising people not to skate or swim in them.
Municipal enforcement does monitor the storm ponds and asks people to leave.
In Crystal Ridge a hockey net sits on the storm water pond and the Western Wheel talked to several people in the area, who said they didn’t see a problem with kids using the pond for skating and hockey.
However, council heard from a company that designs storm water ponds, that they are not safe for skating.
In a letter to council Bernard Amell said the ice can have serious fluctuations in thickness over the entire surface and is compromised by salt and other chemicals that run off of town streets.
Amell also said the rising and dropping water can leave the ice surface totally unsupported or put upward pressure on the surface, which can make it unstable.
Robertson said in light of that report, he felt council shouldn’t make any changes to their bylaws regarding use of storm water pond.
“Its based on the expert advise of the guys who build them – they say don’t do it,” Robertson said.
The town’s insurance company also said the steps they are taking to prevent skating on the ponds mitigates their liability.
However, Robertson said he is more concerned about preventing accidents, then the town being sued.
“First and foremost is the safety of our residents,” he said.