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Retention Ponds, Rivers Deemed Unsafe for Skating

Photo by Carter Brooks

Retention Ponds, Rivers Deemed Unsafe for Skating

City of Winnipeg officials continue to urge residents to refrain from walking, skating and/or playing on the retention ponds, rivers and streams located within Winnipeg. At a City Hall news conference this past weekend, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and Emergency Services Manager Jay Shaw reminded the public that those bodies of frozen water are off limits.

A misconception amongst Winnipeggers is that it is discouraged to skate/play on these ponds/rivers due to COVID-19 health restrictions and social distancing practices. That, however, is not the case. Despite community clubs not hosting outdoor rinks for the time being due to social limitations, the true reasoning behind the ban on the use of ponds, streams and rivers is due to the warm weather and potential emergencies.

“This is Canada. I mean, there’s ice, people want to play hockey. We get it,” Bowman said in his press conference. “We don’t want to see a loss of life. We don’t want to see people go through the ice. The secondary issue is, we don’t want to divert first responders right now, at a time when we know they’re being called … to help out at personal care homes, for example. We don’t want to stretch those resources any more than necessary.”

Although the main cause for the ban is safety related, Bowman did add that emergency personnel do have a significantly larger workload with the current state of COVID-19 related usage.

“Retention ponds in particular, they’re not safe to be on at any time,” Bowman added. “We want to make sure, first and foremost, we protect the safety of our residents. If there’s less emergency calls for retention ponds, there are more first responders available for other emergencies.”

Adding to Bowman’s piece, Shaw continued on the subject of the insecurity of retention ponds, while also touching on the use of river skating trails.

“No matter the temperature outside or surface appearance of the ice, conditions on retention ponds can change quickly and without warning,” Shaw said. “During the winter, water from the snow melt or from nearby water main breaks drains into retention ponds. While we’re looking forward to skating on the river trails when it is safe, I will remind you that the ice on our retention ponds is never safe to be on.”

Despite the appearance of a perfect skating surface, much danger lies underneath.

“Retention ponds look like such a fabulous idea, but you can’t really see the hidden dangers underneath the water,” he said. “The pipes come in from underneath the ice. That water is mixed with salt and is different temperatures; it can thin that ice out. From the surface, that retention pond looks like a great place to play.”

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at

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