Clarified legislation adds power for peace officers; residents must skate on 13 authorized outdoor rinks, not storm water facilities
Chestermere, AB – Chestermere City Council passed amendments to the Storm Drainage Bylaw on Tuesday night that clarify and strengthen expectations that residents must stay off storm water management ponds and facilities.
“We recognize that our residents are looking for more opportunities to get outside, particularly during the pandemic, but we cannot jeopardize the lives of our citizens by allowing recreation on storm ponds,” says Mayor Marshall Chalmers. “We offer 13 other outdoor rink alternatives, so there is no need to endanger our community, and especially our children, by permitting skating on these dangerous storm water management facilities.”
Prior to the bylaw consideration, a presentation by City engineering, fire, utility, park and enforcement officials reiterated the dangers of these engineered sites.
“Storm ponds are not natural ponds,” says Bernie Morton, the City’s Chief Administrative Officer. “They are engineered facilities that have water consistently running below the ice. That water, containing a multitude of contaminants, weakens the ice considerably and makes these structures incredibly unsafe for recreational purposes.”
City officials cited engineering standards, 2016 research done by the University of Alberta that details how “the [ground penetrating radar] surveys of ice thickness confirmed significant spatial and temporal variability in the ice thickness,” and referenced tragic incidents of fatalities in other communities.
It also follows a near-miss incident from last Friday when a child fell through the storm pond in the Kinniburgh subdivision. The child was able to get out on his own, but the incident exemplifies the significant risk of being on these ponds.
“To complete an investigation of this incident, our crews went out on that ice. It is very concerning how just a few inches away from where a child fell in, the ice was strong enough to hold a grown man. It is this unpredictability of ice thickness that illustrates why these facilities are so dangerous. One step you could be fine, and the next step you could be under the water,” said Chestermere Fire Captain Brent Paquette.
While the City has always had the ability to penalize those who play on storm ponds under its Community Standards Bylaw, the municipality has typically pursued education efforts. Details of links to resources, stories about fatalities in other communities, and messages from first responders are available at www.chestermere.ca/stormponds.
Last Friday, officials went further to discourage unauthorized storm pond rinks by sprinkling sand on the surface, a proactive measure that triggered strong reactions from the community.
“We understand that some residents have gone to considerable lengths to create rinks on storm ponds and we recognize that this may be frustrating, but the science is clear that this is not a safe space to put these rinks and never has been,” says CAO Morton. “We don’t want any member of our community to have to bear the impact of having been part of a tragic accident on a storm pond, nor the potential liabilities that come with an incident like that. Instead, we invite residents who are eager to play hockey or skate to join us in adopting an on-land rink in their own community instead.”
Residents interested in getting involved with the City’s adopt-a-rink program can contact the Parks team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those who continue to disregard the City’s directives, the new legislation amendment provides more clarity and strengthens enforcement officers’ abilities to eject people from the ponds, impound objects left on storm ponds, and issue fines. The bylaw applies to all ponds, streams, and canals in the City of Chestermere that are engineered as part of the City’s storm water management infrastructure.
Residents are still welcome to skate on four on-land outdoor rinks around the community or nine cleared and maintained rinks on Chestermere Lake, where City Parks staff conduct regular ice thickness measurements.
“We know it’s been a long, hard winter, and we aren’t trying to reduce fun and healthy activities,” says Mayor Chalmers. “We just want people to have healthy fun in a safe way, so that everyone can go home at the end of the day.”
Locations for the outdoor rinks in Chestermere can be found at www.chestermere.ca/skate.