For the last four years, whenever the temperature gets low enough to freeze the ice on the shallow ponds in Langley’s Dale Ball Passive Park, several dozen Langley parents and kids have been holding a barbecue at the park at 208 Street and 26 avenue and put ice skates on for a little hockey.
They returned this Saturday, even though they were in violation of a newly-adopted Township of Langley ban on pond hockey.
Under a revised public spaces bylaw adopted last year by the Township, travelling “on or across any water in a public space which is frozen or appears to be frozen” is not allowed.
Breaching the bylaw could cost skaters a $100 fine.
“What’s next, then?” said Jordan Myrol, one of the dads, who agreed to speak to Black Press Media on behalf of the parents.
“Kid aren’t allowed to toboggan on hills because they might break their neck?”
As he spoke, adults and children kept arriving with skates and hockey sticks.
There was no sign of a bylaw enforcement officer, and Myrol said any enforcement would have to explain to the children why they weren’t being allowed to play.
He said nothing beats the “epic” experience of skating on a frozen pond, something that doesn’t happen often in the Lower Mainland.
“We get this once a year, if that,” Myrol said.
“This brings back my childhood memories.”
He said the parents carried out an advance survey of the pond, looking for soft spots and marking potential problem areas.
They also applied additional water the day before, to smooth out the surface and make the ice thicker.
“This whole section is even stronger,” Myrol said.
“It’s all safe. It’s not cracking, It’s not breaking. We’ve checked out every single spot on the ice.”
Township park operations manager Tab Buckner said so far, no warnings or tickets have been issued under the new bylaw, but “Keep Off” signs are going up at local ponds.
At the time the pond skating prohibition was approved, Al Neufeld, Township deputy director, public spaces and community initiatives, said it came down to safety and liability.
“We rarely get ice thick enough that we would be comfortable signing to say it’s safe,” Neufeld said.
Neufeld said enforcement of the new rule would be eased in, where offenders would get a warning and be referred to the bylaw.
Other changes to the public spaces bylaw restrict smoking in public parks to designated areas only and prohibiting the possession of drug paraphernalia, which now gives bylaw officers the power to ticket people who are found in parks with equipment used for consuming illegal drugs.
Bans on golfing, parachuting, skydiving and swimming without a bathing suit remain in place.
“Most people use common sense, but there’s always the anomalies and situations that might present themselves where we need the ability to enforce the bylaw for the public good,” Neufeld commented. “So those kind of quirky things have to be in there.”
Bylaw fines range from $100 to $10,000, or even three months in jail, depending on severity and number of offences.
Unauthorized smoking, parachuting and skydiving, for example, will net a $100 fine, while unauthorized alteration of park facilities or equipment, unauthorized alteration of plants or vegetation, and using fireworks will net $500.
In some cases, the Township can issue park permits to temporarily permit any of the restricted or banned activities.