Jacksonville ice skating new target of JPD, city Aldermen

By Gary Scott on January 31, 2015 at 12:35pm

Some Jacksonville residents are hoping the five-0 won’t prevent them from skating figure-8s in the future.

It’s a police call that got the attention of Jacksonville aldermen and was brought up by one at the most recent city council meeting.

C.J. Bahan of Jacksonville says he’s never gone skating before. He says he had just purchased a pair of ice skates over the summer. On January 10th, Bahan says he went to go try out the skates on Lake Mauivisterre, near Kiwanis Grove.

It was a particularly cold start to the month, and Bahan thought the lake had good skating conditions, but then this happened.

“I was just about ready to finish up and I had a couple of JPD officers show up. I talked to them, and they told me that somebody had called the Jacksonville Police Department complaining that I was out on the ice. They were really cool about it they just said that, you know, they weren’t sure whether I was supposed to be doing it or not, or whether I could do it.” Bahan explained.

Jacksonville municipal ordinances state no one can ice skate on Lake Mauivisterre, “except upon such portions as may be designated by the city” for skating.

Which means Jacksonville Parks and Lakes Superintendent Bruce Surratt, who was contacted by Bahan after the incident, has some say in the matter.

“I did tell the young man, I did talk to him, that next time to check with us if he wants to go out, I’ll call the PD and make sure that everybody leaves him alone. If we feel that the ice is the proper thickness he can go ahead and go about his sport.”

Although Surratt says it’s the first time he’s heard of the police stopping someone for skating in 34 years, Jacksonville Police Deputy Chief Tim Shea says South Jacksonville police officers used to do it, too.

As part of a new dispatching agreement between the city and the village, this is the first winter since the 1970s the Jacksonville Police Department has had Nichols Park- and Lake Mauivsterre- in its jurisdiction.

Surratt says back in the day, skating on Jacksonville’s frozen waterways used to be more popular.

“Many times in the past we’d gone out with our smaller tractors and pushed the snow off of the lake to give you a better area, and even made a course to skate around. A big circular course, a rectangular course, and oval course. There have been times where we had an extended cold spell that we’ll even take firewood out and start a fire on the shore and allow people to skate. We’re just asking people to be careful where you’re at, closer to the shore, closer to the inlets, not out in the middle somewhere.” Surrat said.

As for the future enforcement, Shea says the police department will continue to advise people not to skate on the lake, but that they will consult with the Parks and Lakes Department. If the weather’s right, Surratt might say something like this:

“If somebody wants to have a skating party, give the Parks a call and we’ll encourage it.”

Surratt notes the lake is deeper as a result of the 2014 dredging project, but he says even a couple inches of thickness is enough. He even encourages anyone with a portable drill to test it. He says 14 inches of thickness has been measured in past winters.