Chestermere City Council passed amendments to the Storm Drainage Bylaw during the Jan. 19 Regular Meeting of Council.
The amendments to the Storm Drainage Bylaw clarify expectations that residents are to stay off of stormwater management ponds and facilities and strengthens the enforcement officer’s ability to eject people from the ponds, impound objects left on storm ponds, and issue fines.
The bylaw applies to all ponds, streams, and canals in the City of Chestermere that are engineered as part of the city’s stormwater management infrastructure.
“We recognize that our residents are looking for more opportunities to get outside, particularly during the pandemic, but we cannot jeopardize the lives of our citizens by allowing recreation on storm ponds,” said Mayor Marshall Chalmers.
Adding, “We offer 13 other outdoor rink alternatives, so there is no need to endanger our community, and especially our children, by permitting skating on these dangerous stormwater management facilities.”
A storm pond is an engineered public utility designed to manage stormwater and all of the contaminants that are in stormwater, including solvents, salts, and runoff from construction sites.
The City of Chestermere plants around the storm ponds to make the area look attractive, and to filter out contaminants.
“It’s not what’s happening on the surface, it’s what’s happening underneath. The erosion of the ice is happening from the bottom up, combined with the constant fluctuation of temperatures is what causes challenges,” said the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Bernie Morton said.
Adding, “Warmer weather, runoff, and water flowing underneath contributes to the challenges.”
The Storm Drainage Bylaw amendments follow a near-miss incident on Jan. 15, when a youth fell through the storm pond in the Kinniburgh subdivision.
Under the Community Standards Bylaw, the City of Chestermere has always had the ability to penalize those who play on storm ponds. However, the municipality has pursued education efforts.
To ensure residents are not using the storm ponds for recreational activity, city officials sprinkled sand on the surface.
“We understand that some residents have gone to considerable lengths to create rinks on storm ponds and we recognize that this may be frustrating, but the science is clear that this is not a safe space to put these rinks and never has been,” Morton said.
Adding, “We don’t want any member of our community to have to bear the impact of having been part of a tragic accident on a storm pond, nor the potential liabilities that come with an incident like that. Instead, we invite residents who are eager to play hockey or skate to join us in adopting an on-land rink in their own community.”
In 2020, Chestermere Municipal Enforcement issued approximately 40 warnings to people in groups, to stop using the storm ponds for recreational purposes.
“Our officers are doing regular visits to storm ponds, speaking with people, and providing education as much as they possibly can,” said Sgt. Municipal Enforcement, Trever Bowman.
“Despite our efforts, we’re still seeing people use the storm ponds, and it’s only a matter of time before a tragedy does occur,” he added. “The youth we’re speaking to are not aware of the dangers of storm ponds, unfortunately when we’re speaking with adults, we’re going back to the same people.”
The City of Chestermere is asking residents to comply with the Storm Drainage Bylaw.
“These are facilities that are owned by the municipality, we have an obligation to ensure we are doing the education that we inform people of the dangers,” Morton said.
“In the middle of a pandemic, we’re trying our very best to use enforcement as the last resort. Even things like sanding, which got some people quite upset, it’s sad that we have to put sand on a storm pond to try and keep people off, with all of the measures, the education, and the dangers that are very clear,” he said.
“There is plenty of information out there, it’s sad that individuals purposefully ignore the risks thinking that it’s not going to happen to them,” said City Councillor Ritesh Narayan.
Chestermere residents are encouraged to use the four on-land rinks around the community, or nine cleared rinks on Chestermere Lake, where the city’s park’s department conducts regular ice thickness measurements.
“We know it’s been a long, hard winter, and we aren’t trying to reduce fun and healthy activities,” Chalmers said.
“We just want people to have healthy fun in a safe way so that everyone can go home at the end of the day,” he said.
Locations for the outdoor rinks in Chestermere can be found at www.chestermere.ca/skate.