Letters to the Editor 2-11-22

On Thick Ice

Dear Editor and concerned citizens of Jamaica Plain,

       This January, we had seasonally cold weather and clear skies – ideal for ice formation on the ponds of the Emerald Necklace. Some small ponds, like Ward’s Pond, are sheltered and freeze earlier and faster than others. Jamaica Pond and the Charles once froze every winter, but their ice today is rarely thick enough to support a person. Within decades, even ice on Boston’s smaller ponds will form less often, likely disappearing within our lifetimes. But right now, we can still count on occasional thick ice on our small ponds. And at more than 4 inches thick, the safety of that ice is a cold, hard, fact.

       Every northern state recognizes that 4 inches of cold, clear ice is safe for walking, skating, and ice fishing. On January 27th, Ward’s Pond was at 5 inches at its thinnest and 8 inches at its thickest, safe for a small car. Now, I don’t suggest we turn Ward’s Pond into a winter parking lot, but any person with a hammer and a measuring tape can find rock solid evidence of the safety of their neighborhood pond’s ice. So I was confused this January, when on three occasions I was approached not just by passers-by, but by a full team from the fire department, claiming that the ice I was skating on was unsafe and I should get off immediately.

       No ice is 100% safe, and thin patches are a concern on any ice surface. But every person has a different risk tolerance, and my decision to ice skate has no bearing on the safety of others. It is a personal choice informed by very accessible data (my measuring tape). Every year, 11,500 Americans visit emergency rooms from injuries or heart attacks sustained while shoveling snow (PubMed ID 20825768), yet I don’t call 911 every time I see an unauthorized shoveler. 50-80 people die on the ice every year, but the vast majority die from vehicle accidents (see lakeice.squarespace.com for more useful ice information). Contrary to the actual risk, neighbors reporting neighbors for ice skating puts us on a slippery slope to a surveillance state that benefits no one, and detracts from the beauty and joy afforded by Boston’s winter landscape.

       I’ve lived here for years, and I love how the city changes with the seasons. I find skating and walking on the ice to be a wonderful new way to experience our parks. Last winter, the whole community came together for one day on Ward’s Pond, a day of connection in an otherwise isolating pandemic. Allowing ice skating and recreation, when safe to do so, further realizes Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision of “communitiveness” (olmsted200.org), with the Emerald Necklace stitching together the diverse communities of Boston and giving us a natural gathering space. At the very least, I think Olmsted would have appreciated letting your neighbors mind their business while you watch from the shore.

Daniel Hart

War – When Will We Ever Learn?

Dear Editor,

       With the talk about war with Russian and Ukraine escalating and implementing steps outlined such as the US joining NATO and putting 50,000 troops on the ground, I cannot help but wonder When Will We Ever Learn.  We just left a 20-year war in Afghanistan with trillions down the drain. The country is unstable and in shambles with the people on the verge of massive starvation.  We ended the war in Iraq with millions down the drain and the country unstable. Both countries had a brain drain as anyone with money, education, and connections got out when they could. Our interventions in Central America in the 80’s didn’t result in greater democracy or more stable governments there. I am not sure if anything positive came out of the Reagan era invasion of the Island of Grendad. The war in Vietnam left millions dead.  People suffered for years from the effects of napalm and landmines. Killing, bombing, burning, destroying, along with displays of massive military might are not the means to moving forward and resolving problems. Can’t we choose not to kill, not to destroy, not to bully and not to support these means? Can’t we look at the failures of the last 50 years and choose a different route?

Virginia Pratt

Member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

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