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Ice Skating Ban Frozen For Now

Bloomingdale Council tables voting on ordinance to prohibit skating and sledding on borough ponds so that more research can be done.

If the Borough of Bloomingdale decides to prohibit ice skating on frozen borough ponds, at least one resident has promised officials he will likely disregard the rules.

"I would not willingly follow this law," Matthew Iannuzzi, said during the public comment portion of Tuesday's borough council meeting.

Ianuzzi was one of several who spoke against the council's consideration of the ordinance which would also prohibit sledding or even walking on the borough's two ponds, Bogue Pond and Oakwood Lake. The council was planning to vote on the ordinance on final reading for adoption Tuesday, but prior to the discussion, Mayor Jonathan Dunleavy told the public that members have decided to take more time to gather information and would not be voting until the spring in all likelihood. Included in the research will be depth studies of the ponds.

Still, the mayor encouraged the public to speak up on the topic. Resident Frank O'Reilly spoke first, questioning whether the prohibition would apply to private lakes in the borough as well. He said he did not think it was fair that residents of the lake communities would be permitted to engage in such activities while others would not be permitted.

"If you don't live in a lake community, if this ordinance passes, then the public would be restricted from using Oakwood Lake or Bogue Pond," O'Reilly said.

Dunleavy said the private communities have to deal separately with their insurance carriers and liabilities. The borough's insurance agents, through a Joint Insurance Fund (JIF), sparked conversation on the topic of the prohibition in the borough, Dunleavy said. The topic was brought up in all municipalities covered by the JIF that have public bodies of water following the deaths of two Mount Olive teenagers who fell through the ice of Budd Lake last month.

"It's not something one of us woke up one morning and said, 'Let's stop ice skating in Bloomingdale,'" Dunleavy said.

While acknowledging the importance of safety, O'Reilly said with the ordinance, government may be intervening in citizens' lives too much.

"I think this gets into the realm of having too much government," he said.

Dunleavy said the borough does have options, including prohibiting the activities altogether, posting signs that say "no trespassing" at the ponds, monitoring the water (which Dunleavy said the borough does not have the manpower for) or enacting an ordinance that essentially declares that the borough does not condone the activities because they are not monitored.

Gerald Mathes, a 60-year resident of the borough, said he used to skate on the ponds as a kid and would play hockey with friends.

"As far as I know, there's nobody that's drowned by going through the ice in Bloomingdale," he said.

Another resident, Jim Harding, has been skating on Oakwood Lake for years and said he is certain that the pond is not deep enough for a tragedy such as that which occurred at Budd Lake to happen in Bloomingdale. Harding said he would like to see the schools introduce ice safety education to the kids so that they know the potential dangers of going out on to a lake believed to be frozen.

But Councilman John D'Amato also noted that accidents do happen and that the council is tasked with coming up with a common solution that provides safety while still allowing residents to enjoy the ponds.

"You're not going to know you're going to fall through the ice until the last minute," he said.

While all of the residents who spoke seemed to oppose the ordinance, one resident, Richard Murek, provided one possible solution that would allow residents to skate while giving the borough peace of mind with safety concerns. He suggested the borough consider putting up an ice rink liner at Delazier Field in the winter. Councilman Mike Sondermeyer took the information Murek presented to the council, including cost estimates, and said he would raise the issue to the Bloomingdale Recreation Commission.

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