LONDON, ONT. -- City of London stormwater engineers are reminding Londoners that ice ponds, mostly found in residential subdivisions, are never safe to skate or play hockey on.

“It is certainly the biggest problem this year. We can appreciate that during COVID people are looking for things to do outdoors but this just isn’t safe,” said Shawna Chambers, a stormwater engineer.

Chambers reminds people that stormwater ponds are not designed for skating and should be considered off-limits.

The ponds are only about five feet deep in the middle and folks can never be sure of the thickness of the ice from just looking at it.

Chambers said the ponds are designed to help control flooding in the area during the summer months and in the winter, water is still moving underneath the surface of the ice.

Ponds also collect salt from nearby roads. Salt lowers freezing temperatures and weakens ice, making it easier to fall through, said Chambers.

‘If you are caught skating on the ice you will be asked to leave by police or the fire department because they don’t want to go out and rescue you.”

This winter has also brought fluctuating temperatures which can create soft spots in the ice in hidden sections.

Last Saturday, London fire crews were called to a pond in northwest London after a man fell through unstable ice.

“We had an occurrence on Saturday where a grownup fell in the ice and luckily a bystander was going by to help this man but we can’t guarantee that. It is deeply concerning for young ones going out on the ice.”

Chambers said she empathizes with families who have limited options for activities due to COVID-19 restrictions, but adds that "it’s better to be safe, than sorry," especially since ice ponds are not monitored.

“Folks are going to have to stick to arenas…We understand right now there are restrictions on those things, so hopefully alternative outdoor activities are the way to go right now.”