Last week and the week before were really, really cold. Cold enough to freeze Lake Roland’s shallow waters to more than a 5” thickness: perfect conditions for ice skating! Which is just what some area residents did – groups of kids took to the ice with hockey sticks and rosy cheeks, and some adults put edge to ice, as well. It was a joy to behold. Good, clean fun on a freezing winter day when it was otherwise hard to appreciate the single-digit weather.
Sadly, the skaters were interrupted by admonitions from the police to get off the ice – someone had called 911. The reason? They were told that Baltimore County Recreation and Parks prohibits skating on its park waters.
The park rules are posted on signs at the main entrances:
Park Open Sunrise to Sunset
Alcoholic Beverages Prohibited without Written Permit
Park Permits Required for Groups
Dogs Must Be Leashed
Unauthorized Motor Vehicles and Horses Prohibited
Open Fires and Weapons Prohibited
Violators Will Be Prosecuted. Help Keep Your Park Clean.
(Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks.)
On the sign, there is no prohibition nor permission to ice skate, but concerned citizens — including my neighbors and me — who gathered with the Baltimore County Director of Recreation and Parks this week were told that it is, in fact, a county policy.
We’re waiting to see the actual law or regulation – none of us can find it anywhere and want to see the actual language.
The events of last week raise really basic questions about who the parks are for, and who gets to decide how they are used. Of course, no one is advocating unsafe activities. But just as the park allows, even encourages, canoeing and kayaking year-round, it clearly states that the activity is allowed only during park hours and “at your own risk.” Couldn’t skating easily be guided by the same limitations? (The Baltimore Sun published yesterday a good story on the controversy, which you can read here.)
Other state parks permit outdoor skating when conditions are favorable, and “at your own risk.” If you think Baltimore County should, too, contact your county council representatives. If you are not sure who you representative is, you can find out at: http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/countycouncil.