Ice safety a concern in Morningside Park

Signs warning<br /> about unstable ice

Grounds workers from the University of
Toronto’s Scarborough
campus walk past one of the few signs warning
about unstable
ice in Morningside Park.

Visitors to Morningside Park say there are not enough signs warning people about the winter dangers of ice and fast-flowing water.

And that means, some say, the park is unsafe for anyone not aware of the risks caused by rapid freezing followed by sudden melting conditions.

“In this park here I really don’t see a lot of signs about the water or the ice,” said Marlene Mignardi, who visits the park often on weekends, and almost daily in the summertime.
Milan Ninkovic, another frequent user agrees, adding “I don’t think there’s quite enough of them.”

A recent visit to the park shows bridges washed away by the flooding of summer, 2005, with only their supports left standing. These bridges have been closed off by orange barriers but no repair work has been done.

Some trails have also crumbled away as a result of erosion and have been fenced off instead of being fixed.

Don Haley, a flood control engineer with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, said the city generally does a good job of providing information about ice safety through press releases, the police, the marine unit of the Toronto Emergency Medical Services, and Red Cross training in schools.

“There’s a lot of information going out there when the conditions become unsafe to reinforce the message of staying off the ice,” Haley said.

Dramatic temperature changes recently from as high as 15 C down to well below 0 C have brought ice and water safety to the forefront.

Haley said that ice safety is always a concern. Even water bodies that do form stronger ice “are never going to be really safe all winter long,” he said in a telephone interview.

Specifically, Highland Creek in Morningside is not very deep, which is why it reacts quickly to change, he said. As a result, strong ice is not formed.

Haley advised that “using common sense and avoiding the ice is the best way to stay safe.”
But Mignardi believes while most adults realize the dangers of ice and know to stay off it, children do not understand the risks.

“Maybe if there were more signs along ponds and the rivers, the kids would see them constantly and know to stay off,” she said. She added that more should be done in schools to teach children about the threat ice surfaces can pose.

Elderly people, those who may not speak English, and even intoxicated persons may need the dangers of ice pointed out to them more clearly, Ninkovic said. However, he agreed “the majority of the people are rational enough to follow some basic safety guidelines.”

Haley says the most common mistake people make regarding ice safety is “they trust their eyes that it looks safe when, in fact, in most situations, it’s not.” He added there are no obvious way to tell if ice is safe or not.

The damage to trails from erosion and flooding also raised safety concerns for the two park-goers.

“The more that can be done to keep people safe, the better it is, because if there are more accidents, then they end up restricting more areas and that’s not what we need,” Mignardi said.