Sylvan Lake warns of thin ice

This year’s wacky winter has not been kind to Sylvan Lake. Snow loads have been largely blamed for the collapse of one of the town’s two arenas and the cancellation of a bonspiel at the curling rink. And now snow is ruining the fun on the lake itself.

This year’s wacky winter has not been kind to Sylvan Lake.

Snow loads have been largely blamed for the collapse of one of the town’s two arenas and the cancellation of a bonspiel at the curling rink. And now snow is ruining the fun on the lake itself.

A deep layer of snow has insulated the lake from freezing to its usual thickness in many places — a situation not helped by the recent freeze-thaw cycle.

After an inspection from the fire department, the town has decided to close the provincial park gate and stop doing any maintenance on the rink on the lake.

Town communication officer Joanne Gaudet said the lake is not freezing in a uniform pattern, leaving dangerous thin spots.

“In some areas you can get 24 inches of ice and it’s great. You walk maybe three or four feet and you’ve got six inches of water and it’s not freezing.”

It would be impossible to monitor the area closely enough to ensure people only went where the ice was safe so the decision was made to close the gates.

“By not maintaining the ice surface we’re hoping that is a strong message to the residents it’s not suitable for us and it shouldn’t be for them either.”

The rink that had been cleared was on a safe stretch of ice, but the town is worried people might stray into unsafe areas.

A small rink was built this year on the pier, which will be maintained for skaters.

The closure means the popular annual pond hockey tournament that was to run Feb. 28 to March 2 has been cancelled. Last year’s tournament featured 26 four-on-four teams going by names like the Hatrick Swayzes and Manchesthair.

A Plan B will also be needed for the annual polar dip, which was to take place on Feb. 15 as part of the town’s Winterfest. Other options, such as a dunk tank in Centennial Park, are being considered.

Dodgy ice conditions had already prompted organizers of the annual Sylvan Lake Speed Skating Marathon to move the venue to Red Deer’s skating oval.

Ice fishers are warned to be aware of the dangers and to check the ice around their holes. The fire department has gone out and met with fishers to discuss the dangers.

Most ice fishers do not access the lake from the provincial park.

Ice fishing and other lake activities like snowmobiling have always been at the person’s own risk.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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