Columbia Lakes Open for Ice Skating, Fishing

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COLUMBIA - Subzero temperatures in the past few days have allowed for more outdoor winter activities than just sledding.

The Columbia Parks and Recreation department opened the lake at Stephen's Lake Park for ice skating and the lake at Cosmo-Bethel Park for ice fishing.

"It usually takes an extended period of well below freezing temperatures for the lake to be safe enough, it happened several years ago. It's not an every winter occurence, fortunately, but it did happen several years ago. The last few days of subzero temperatures have definitely contributed to the lakes being frozen," said Tammy Miller, public information specialist for Columbia Parks and Recreation.

The depth of the ice on each lake measures at least four inches which is the minimum amount required by the city before the lakes open for ice sports.

Ice depth is checked by drilling holes through the ice beginning from the shoreline and working towards the center of the lakes.

"Our crews check the lake every single day and once we feel like it's not safe anymore, we'll close the lakes again," said Miller.

Columbia park-goer, Kimberly Hendren, said even with regulations she doesn't think ice skating on Stephen's Lake is safe.

"I mean this is Missouri, the weather's changing rapidly every day. Unless I officially see with my own eyes the drilling or whatever, I guess it's the fear of the unknown. You don't know how thick it's going to be the next day or what's underneath there," said Hendren.

She said it would take more than just four inches for her to skate on the lake or allow her children to.

"I would say, for me to feel safe, probably about half a foot," Hendren said.

Ice depth is not checked on the weekends, holidays or evenings, but signs are posted at both locations when the lakes are open.

Signs will be taken down when temperatures are warmer and the lakes are closed.

The Parks and Recreation department urges the public suggests the following safety tips for ice skating and fishing:

- Never skate or fish alone.

- Do not gather in large groups in one spot on the ice.

- Ice skating and fishing are not allowed after dark.

- Have a rope, ladder or pole available in case of emergency.

- Warn others of dangerous conditions.

- Be aware that ice thickness is not consistent; stay away from from cracks, seams, pressure ridges, slushy areas and darker areas that signify thinner ice.

- Children should never be allowed to skate or fish unsupervised.