For some of us, the payoff of all this frigid weather is that maybe area ponds will be frozen hard enough for skating. Sadly, EG Patch is unable to confirm that any ice is our vicinity is safe for skating.
Confirming that ice is safe is tricky business, since stories of people (usually children) falling through ice rarely end well. Case in point, the death of Christopher Martini, age 7, in 1995, after he and two other boys fell through the ice on Spring Green Pond in Warwick.
When I called the EG Fire District to ask about safe ice in town, I was told they no longer check the ice. The police said they also do not check the ice but recommend common sense precautions.
The state Department of Parks and Recreation checks the ice at three ponds on state parkland, including a pond at Goddard Park. On Sunday, Jan. 27, the voicemail message at the department's "ice information" line said none of their three ponds had been okayed for skating.
The message also said that pond ice must have a "uniform thickness of 6 inches" before the surface can be deemed safe, which "takes a prolonged period of below-freezing temperatures." The message said DEM recommends staying off of and away from ponds, and recommends instead man-made ice rinks.
There were several skaters at the rink at Eldredge Sunday afternoon. Deborah Sherman of East Greenwich was there watching her granddaughter and two friends skate.
"It's just a great place to go," Sherman said. "You know, you're not sure of the ponds. They probably are safe after this weather, but it's just a nice place to go. It's open to the public, it's no cost, you get to have a little fun on the ice, you get to experience skating. It's fun for kids."
Here's additional information from a DEM press release from 2010:
"No one should ever assume that ice is safe for skating by merely conducting a visual inspection. The ice needs to be cut through and measured in various locations in order to ensure that it is thick enough to support safe skating," cautions John Faltus, Deputy Chief of DEM's Division of Parks and Recreation. Faltus also said skaters should follow other safety precautions, such as never skating alone or on an untested lake or pond; never using the ice for a shortcut; and never going out onto the ice after an animal or toy. DEM reminds skaters to dress properly when skating outdoors, particularly when temperatures and wind chills are low.
DEM's 24-hour Ice Information telephone line is 222-2632, but DEM does not monitor ice conditions in local communities.