Skating at Fawn Lake brings me great joy. My wife calls it my happy place. In my life, and especially during this pandemic, I put a high value on opportunities to be outside, to be active, and to connect with family and friends safely. When the conditions are right, skating and playing hockey at Fawn Lake is so much fun because it has all of these things.
So I felt compelled to comment regarding Chief Grune’s advice to stay off all ice and the state report indicating that no outdoor ice is safe. I appreciate, Chief Grunes, your role and responsibility. I understand that you are interested in the safety of Bedford residents and your firefighters who could potentially get called in for dangerous rescues.
I’d offer though that a deeper sense of safety comes not from eliminating all risk but from building an understanding of the risk involved and making sensible choices to mitigate the risk. It also comes from the relationships and sense of community that you build from shared experience. Life comes with all sorts of risks but eliminating all of them does not make for much of a life.
For many of us who like to skate at Fawn Lake, we drill and measure the ice regularly. We’ve reviewed guidelines on ice thickness including the differences of old v. new ice, we talk about trouble spots with each other and we look after each other. I am so grateful for this community of friends who share an appreciation for a day out on the ice.
Some of us have been observing the patterns of ice formation and melting on the lake for years. Others are happy to see their kids enjoying an activity that they did as kids growing up in town. So my encouragement to those who might wonder, “is it safe?” would be to visit Fawn Lake. Go for walks around it. Notice, for example, that the north side of the lake gets significantly more sunshine this time of year which diminishes ice formation. Interestingly the water near the island beaver lodge has been very reluctant to freeze this year. Talk to the regulars at the lake and ask their perspective on the conditions and any areas of concern. Measure the ice. (Please don’t throw rocks and sticks on the ice to “test” the thickness – it ruins the ice and makes it dangerous for skating.) Consider bringing rope or other safety gear. Watch the air temperature. Be willing to wait another day/week if the ice isn’t safe. Listen to friends and family that tell you to turn around and not chase a puck onto thin ice. Bring people who can help you stay safe.
Obviously, the danger is real and it is important to be careful but people here in New England have been skating, ice fishing, and enjoying the pleasures of recreating on the ice for a long time. If we all pay attention to the risks, prepare for them, and use our judgment, we can be safe and have a lot of fun on the ice together.