Skating at Toronto's Grenadier Pond is banned. Should it be?

Should the city continue to ban skating at Grenadier Pond in Toronto's High Park or is it time they found a way to make it allowed and safe?

Bylaw officers ordered skaters off the ice on Sunday

Some people want to skate on Grenadier Pond, even though the city says it's not safe to do so. 2:33

On Sunday a bylaw officer ordered a group of skaters off the ice at Grenadier Pond in Toronto's High Park where — as signs at the water's edge warn — skating is banned.

Here's how the incident was described in a post on the City Rinks Toronto Facebook page, which is maintained by local outdoor skating enthusiasts:

"A bylaw officer was sent to the pond in the afternoon, and he stood on the edge of the pond blowing a whistle to signal to skaters to get off. This required the skaters to gather up their shoes and skate into the middle section of the thick pond ice, so that their peaceful skate wouldn't be broken by the shrill of the whistle."

From the post, it would appear skaters defied the bylaw officer's orders to get off the ice. The post also says ice at the time was 12 inches thick on a clear day with near-perfect skating conditions.

"[The water is] so reflective of the clear sky that it actually seems like skaters are skating in the sky," read the post.

Sunday's incident and the Facebook post describing it highlight the edgy issue of whether or not outdoor skating should continue to be outlawed at Grenadier Pond.

The arguments, pro and con

The arguments go something like this:

Skating should be allowed:  People are able to decide for themselves when the ice is safe and should not have the experience of skating on a natural surface denied to them by city bureaucrats. Given last week's frigid weather, skating on the pond was clearly safe. The city should find a way to let people enjoy skating at Grenadier, something they've done for decades. The city could eliminate the risk by testing the ice and letting people know whether it's safe or unsafe instead of simply banning skating outright, even on days when the ice is thick enough.

Of course, there's a counter-argument, which goes something like this:

Outdoor skating is illegal for good reasons  Given the risk of falling through the ice, the city has no choice but to outlaw skating at Grenadier Pond. If the city allows skating there, it's only a matter of time before someone skates when the ice is unsafe, leaving the city open to criticism and lawsuits should someone be killed or injured. The city does not have the resources to test the ice and even if it did, people would skate on days when the ice is deemed unsafe. Finally, skating on the pond isn't necessary because the city operates more than 50 of outdoor rinks across the city where skating is free and safe. The rink at High Park, located near Grenadier Pond, is regularly resurfaced and has separate areas for hockey players and leisure skaters.

Coun. Sarah Doucette addressed the issue Monday in an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. She recalled how 30 years ago, she skated on the ice at Grenadier Pond.

Doucette conceded that while she is not an expert and does not believe anyone should break the law, she'd like to explore ways the city could allow safe skating at Grenadier.

"I would love to see skating become legal at Grenadier Pond," she said. "It was the first place I ever skated 30 years ago after I'd been in Canada only a few years.

"Years ago they did test [the ice] and did clear it but in the last four or five years with budget cuts, in no way could we allocate a person to do this," she told host Matt Galloway. "If it's thin ice, don't skate. The problem is how do we know it's thin ice?"

Doucette said she plans to investigate whether it's possible and practical for the city to test the ice. She also wants to ask the city's legal department if Skate at Your Own Risk signs would be enough to limit the city's liability.

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