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Tonawanda mayor suggests using shovels to clear skating pond after Jeep falls through ice

A City of Tonawanda parks vehicle crashed through the ice last week while clearing snow from the Ives Park skating pond off of Delaware Street.

The driver, Fred Sparks, was uninjured, according to police, but the 2016 Jeep appears to be a total loss, according to Mayor Rick Davis.

It was not the first time this has happened.

"It seems like every so often we have an apparatus that falls through,"  Davis said. "In years past, it's been an ATV so it was less expensive to replace."

Department of Public Works Director Joseph Warthling said Sparks didn't even get wet when the ice began cracking under the Jeep. Sparks was able to exit the vehicle before the Jeep went into the water. Kids at the scene just continued to skate around the Jeep.

"When we were towing the vehicle out we had to stop the kids from jumping over the rope," said Warthling. "The Jeep went through in the middle of the ice and we just barricaded it off."

He said those barricades will remain through the winter because it is not safe to skate on the uneven surface, but Warthling said there is still, "plenty of room left for the kids to skate."

Warthling said an ATV weighs 600 to 700 pounds, while a Jeep weighs about 2 tons. He said the city has had a pickup out on the ice clearing snow in the past when the ice was 10-inches thick.

The ice is very popular, with 50 to 100 kids often there skating, Warthling said. "The other night a couple of gentleman told me they drove 45 minutes to play hockey there. Kids from all over and adults skate there," he said.

The size of two soccer fields, the 2 1/2-foot deep pond is dry in the summer, when the site is used for soccer games. It is flooded in the winter to create a spot for ice skating. This winter was the earliest the city had filled up the pond, a few weeks before Christmas, Davis said.

Davis said a cheaper option for the city would be to let kids to clear the snow with shovels, instead of using vehicles with plows that could be damaged.

"I remember when I was a kid, we would grab our skates and a shovel. You clear off the pond and carry on with the game. We have to look at the possibility of not (clearing the snow) anymore," said Davis.

"If people want to use it, they will have to clear a path for themselves. I'm not suggesting our city workers go out there with shovels," Davis said. "We'll fill it up for them, but maybe people will bring a shovel – or we will find a lighter apparatus to clear it off."

Warthling said that is already happening.

"Any night you go out there you will see kids shoveling," Warthling said. "When the kids skate on it for two or three hours the puck doesn't slide like it should and they shovel it clean again."

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