Is your local pond safe for skating?

Is your local pond safe for skating?

WALPOLE, Mass. — Walpole Ponds Committee Chair Dan Ryan drills about 10 holes in the area being opened for skating on Turner Pond.

If the ice is thick enough and the temperature low enough, there will be skating on the pond for days.

“That is more than safe…I believe that’s around eight,” Ryan said Monday, holding his measuring stick in the one-inch hole he had drilled. “The state says you can go out there at four inches for recreation. We don’t open unless we have five.”

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Ryan and other volunteers have maintained Turner Pond for skating since 2010. He and others spent at least two hours Monday clearing several inches of new snow off the ice.

“You have to get the snow off,” Ryan explained. “Otherwise, the snow’s going to insulate the ice, and then it’s going to get mushy.”

Signs at Turner Pond forbid visitors from shoveling snow on the pond. Doing so and leaving a mound of snow behind will warm the ice below it and compromise the stability, Ryan said.

In the neighboring town of Medfield, a skater fell through the ice at Kingsbury Pond on Jan. 30. Medfield firefighters responded with ice rescue equipment, but the skater had gotten out by their arrival, the fire department said in a tweet.

The following day, in Hudson, a father and son were rescued from Fort Meadow Reservoir after their ATV crashed through the ice. Both were treated at the hospital but expected to recover.

“People have already gone in this year,” Ryan said. “Kids will throw a rock, and it won’t go through. And they think they can go out and skate, and they can’t.”

The state’s website urges people stepping out on the ice to check the thickness of with a chisel, auger or cordless drill and a tape measure “at regular intervals.”

“New ice is stronger than old ice,” the site says. “Four inches of clear, newly formed ice may support one person on foot, while a foot or more of old, partially thawed ice may not.”

The site contains additional safety tips, including what to do if you do fall through the ice.

Ryan encourages those looking to skate outdoors to find a maintained pond like Turner. But if people do choose to venture out, he urges people not to step out on a frozen body of water they are unfamiliar with and not to go alone. Know the depth and the conditions of the water; a spring or current can make the ice more dangerous.

When the conditions are good, Ryan expects dozens each day to visit Turner Pond, where lights illuminate the ice for late-night skating.

The lodge is currently closed for gathering due the coronavirus pandemic, and social distancing and mask requirements are enforced. But turnout this year has been great, he said.

“It’s always mobbed. You don’t think you’re in Walpole. You think you’re up north somewhere when you get here,” Ryan said. “It’s like you’re out in the country and you have this picturesque pond.”