The City of Kitchener is warning its residents to stay off of frozen stormwater ponds.
The city has more than 150 stormwater management ponds, which are engineered to collect runoff, reduce local flooding and ensure cleaner water flowing into the environment.
While they may look perfect for skating, officials said in a news release on Thursday that there is a lot going on below the surface.
“While their shiny and slippery surface during the winter may look appealing for ice skating, these ponds can be very dangerous,” the news release read in part.
“When stormwater ponds freeze over during the winter, the thickness of the ice becomes highly unpredictable and makes for very dangerous conditions.”
With that in mind, officials are asking residents to exercise caution around these ponds, saying that they should not be used for recreational activities at any time of the year.
“We know community members are looking for activities to do during the province-wide shutdown, but for your safety, please stay off these ponds,” the release read.
Instead, the city encouraged people to make use of its Reimagine Winter resource, which provides activities—both indoor and outdoor—for people to do with their households during the colder months.
The City of Kitchener says there are more than 30 community rinks available throughout the city. A full list can be found here.
Arenas also offer skating times, which need to be booked in advance. People can come to the arena 10 minutes before their scheduled time and will need to wear a mask while putting on their skates. Dressing rooms are closed.
Kitchener has received two complaints of people on the ponds so far this winter.
"In both those incidents, kids were playing hockey on ponds," said Bu Lam with the City of Kitchener. "Bylaw infrared them of some of the dangers of these activities and asked the individuals to leave the ponds, which they did."
Waterloo Fire Chief Richard Hepditch said they haven't been called to a ice water rescue so far this winter, but did rescue a dog.
"If people don’t skate or walk on, or enter the ponds, during the season or at any time, then it’s not going to be required to perform an ice water rescue at any time," he said.
He said storm water management ponds pose high risk because the water flow fluctuates, resulting in unstable ice surfaces.
"It can’t be expected to support weight of citizens skating on the ponds or walking across them, in which case, they are at significant risk of falling through the ice," he said. "There never would be a safe time to skate on storm water management ice when there’s ice, nor is it considered safe to enter the water even without ice."
Nicole Papke with the City of Waterloo said there are around 59 storm water management ponds in the city.
"We receive typically less than five complaints per season related to the use of storm water management ponds for recreation," she said.
Waterloo has 28 outdoor community rinks, but they haven't opened this year due to weather conditions.
"If it’s tricky to get the outdoor rinks open, then storm water management ponds are definitely not safe to do so," Papke said.
Cambridge has five volunteer-run outdoor rinks, with a maximum of 10 people allowed at each rink.
Residents are reminded to avoid frozen creeks, rivers and storm ponds.
With files from CTV News Kitchener's Zayn Jinah