Frozen Water Safety
Heightened awareness regarding the enforcement of regulations concerning frozen ponds has circulated amongst local municipalities. Some towns, such as Englewood, Demarest and Closter have instilled several sets of rules that are comprised of safety requirements pertaining to the thickness of the ice, which heavily determines whether or not a frozen pond is deemed safe for skating.
Due to the unusually mild winters we have been experiencing as of recent years, many towns have banned ice-skating, including two ponds in the Closter Nature Center. The winters simply have not been cold enough and therefore cannot yield suitable ice conditions required to pass the general “four-inch thick” rule of thumb supposedly safe for the beloved outdoor winter activity. To judge how thick the ice is, the Closter Nature Center, for instance, will drill into the ice in order to measure with a gauge.
When it comes to the safety of their community caution is paramount for the local municipalities. Often times, what may appear to be a frozen pond, is in fact only frozen in the middle. If temperatures are not cold enough and sustained at these temperatures for a long period of time, what appears to be frozen through and through may in fact already be melting along the edges. If this is the case, then the pond will be prohibited from public use for skating and the like.
In towns where ice-skating has been allowed in the past, places like the Closter Nature Center make every effort to be on the lookout for anyone attempting to not heed the warning of various signs posted prohibiting use of the pond. Enforcement of safety is a not something taken lightly for these local towns, as they have made it essential to parlay to the public knowledge about ice safety.
According to Englewood’s Flat Rock Brook Nature Center Executive Director Stephen Wiessner, Englewood’s famed Flat Rock Brook, unlike the Closter Nature Center, has “never allowed anyone on the pond at any time” since he has been actively on the board. Precautions taken by Flat Rock Brook Nature Center to look out for the safety of its transient tourists as well as its Englewood residents have been to post signs of warning as a deterrent for those who may try to venture out onto the ice. Additionally, the staff keeps a close eye, in every effort to keep those who get too close, at bay.
In Demarest, borough officials within the Department of Public Works flood a shallow pond as a winter attraction for a fun, outdoor activity for its community. In this instance, it is the responsibility of Demarest’s Department of Public Works to determine if the ice is thick enough, and, therefore, safe enough for use by the public.
In the wake of recent events, local municipalities have been taking extra precautionary measures to pay closer attention to safety on the ice, as well as relaying this pertinent information to the public.