Letter: Use caution on the ice
In response to a recent letter about people falling through ice at the meadows, I will reiterate a letter I sent in about 10 years ago on the same subject. It is not anyone's job to test and affirm the safety of the ice. You must treat being on ice with caution as you would crossing a road. Two inches of black ice will hold a 180 pound person safely. If you are on a river or a lake you might wish thicker ice. Two inches of white ice is not safe. If the ice is white snow ice or spring ice which is very porous you ought not to trust even a foot of it. If you are on the Connecticut River you want at least eight inches, preferably of solid black ice.
At the Retreat there are places which are not safe. The edges near the cattail reeds are a good place to expect to fall through at any time. Stay away from the reeds at all times. If you are not ice learned, stay on the Route 30 side of the island, or to the south of the island. The north end of the island is where the current comes in through the canal. This area is basically the same as a river. More than six inches of black ice here is my recommendation. If you cannot tell how thick the ice is there, stay off. You can ask the ice fishermen how thick the ice is, but they are almost never up in the canal, so the ice they know about is irrelevant to the canal. The canal comes in at the north end of the island and its current curves to the east back out the exit toward the Marina. That area should always be approached with caution. To be perfectly safe, once you are out on the ice stay in the middle away from the edges. If you have clear ice you may judge its thickness by looking at a crack, but you need to observe the crack from a 45 degree angle to get an accurate viewing. Follow someone bigger than you if you are nervous. We had a hockey game there last week with twelve players, basically a ton of bodies moving around in one spot for an hour. The ice was about six inches thick. I bring a hatchet to chop a hole if I have any doubts about ice.
If people are falling through it is because they are not using common sense. Look at the ice where you are going. If you don't understand ice, stay away from areas where no one else has left skate marks. Stay out of narrow bays and channels. Don't skate into the reeds.
The only time I have fallen through at the Retreat was at the entrance opening, right after telling someone else not to walk over the cattails nearby. I went in up to my waist much to their delight. Later as I emptied the water out of my boots in front of Key Bank, a man came over to offer me a five dollar bill. When I explained that I was not homeless, he quickly withdrew his offer.
South Newfane, Jan. 4
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