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Add'l Ice Safety Background Information

(Updated Jan 14) - The primary access areas to Lake Carnegie near the dock were primarily open water at the end of the day yesterday. While ice has begun to form again in these areas, it is extremely thin ice as of this morning and is a dangerous area.  All locations remain closed as of Sunday, Jan 14. 

(Updated Jan 12) - Temps have risen and most snow has melted on the ponds and Lake Carnegie.  Temps will begin to dip back down by Saturday evening.  REC Staff will be checking ice thickness/surface conditions again on Sunday 1/14 at sunrise.  Stay tuned for updates.

(Updated Jan 9) - With daytime temps expected to be between 40 & 50 this week, we are watching the lake/ponds closely to monitor snow melt.  There is rain in the forecast for later this week/weekend, which could also help get snow off of ice surfaces.  We will continue to monitor both current conditions and high/low temps that are expected in the days to come.

(Updated Jan 7) - staff has tried to remove some snow from CP North pond, but the snow is frozen and even our largest snow blower will not clear it to a point that we deem the surface safe.

(Updated Jan 6) - with 5-6 inches of additional snow covering on the lake and ponds, all locations remain closed.


Dear Members of the Princeton Community,

I want to provide an update and some important background about ice skating, ice safety, and the factors involved in determining if any of the three approved skating locations are safe for public use.

We realize that there is a growing desire to get out on to the ice for skating, and that the very cold temperatures we’ve had for the past 7-10 days might suggest to many that the ice is thick enough to skate safely. There are many factors considered when evaluating the ice conditions, all of which are in place for the safety of the community and the safety of the people that are performing the safety checks.

The Princeton Recreation Department is solely responsible for deeming ice safe for skating at the municipally-owned ponds at Community Park North and Barbara Smoyer Park, as well as at Lake Carnegie, which is privately owned by Princeton University. Princeton Recreation and Princeton University have a long-standing partnership in which Princeton University allows public access to the lake for skating when the Recreation Department deems it safe.    

Regarding Lake Carnegie

The only approved skating area is between the Washington Road and Harrison Street bridges.  The bridges serve as boundaries that are simple to comprehend and easily visible at all times. There is a flag system in place for residents to know whether or not the ice is safe.  Reg Flag = NOT SAFE. White Flag = SAFE.  There are two flag locations; one on top of the Boathouse on Washington Road and the other on the Route 1 side of the Harrison St. bridge (on your right if you are leader towards Route 1).

The authorized skating area is nearly a half-mile long and covers an estimated 1.5 million square feet.  We will authorize skating only when we can deem the entire authorized area safe.   We do not have a safe and effective way to cordon off one area for safe skating and keep another area closed.  It is all or nothing in this case.

Our requirements for safe skating are as follows:

  1. Minimum of 5 (five) inches of ice thickness across the entire authorized area
  2. AND a surface that is without dangerous areas that may be too rough, bumpy or jagged
  3. AND a surface that is not snow covered, as this prohibits skaters from seeing any imperfections in the ice that could be dangerous

As ice began to form on most of the lake about 10 days ago, we encountered a large flock of geese around in a large area of open water near the middle of the lake. This area did not freeze, and the geese remained in this area through sometime late on Dec. 30 or early on Dec. 31.  With open water present in the authorized skating area, skating cannot be allowed.  We continued to monitor the ice as safely as possible, and we still had multiple measurements of less than 5 inches along shore points on the morning of December 31st.  

On December 30th, it snowed between 1 and 2 inches, and much of that snow cover remains on Lake Carnegie today.  The snow covering prevents our staff from safely checking all parts of the 1.5 million square foot area because they cannot see where and what they are stepping on.  The only area that isn’t snow covered is the spot previously occupied by the geese, which did start to freeze over after the geese left.

Snow cover can act as an insulator and actually warm up the top layers of ice.  We know that the ice continues to get thicker during this deep freeze cycle, but staff cannot safely confirm that the entire authorized area is safe for skating because we cannot see it under the snow.

It’s been called to our attention that some people have gone on to the ice and shoveled off areas to skate on. As a reminder, this is not allowed.  It has been suggested that if a few people can clear the snow cover off a hockey rink sized area then the recreation staff should do that for the entire authorized skating area.  At more than 1.5 million square feet, we do not have the resources or the equipment to do that, and for reasons mentioned earlier it would be a dangerous task to consider.

The best case weather scenario to help get Lake Carnegie open is for temperatures to reach a day-time high of mid-to-high 30’s (even low 40’s) for a day or two and melt the snow cover.  Those temperatures and some sun will help to melt the snow, but overnight lows below freezing will help to keep a good base of safe ice.  It would also be helpful to have those temperatures and some rain, which also historically has helped provide a clean, clear, and safe sheet of ice.

Regarding CP North and Smoyer Park ponds

Ice thickness readings were not consistently 5+ inches at either location at the time of the 12/30/17 snow event.  We have continued to check ice thickness at both locations along the shorelines, and as some of that snow has melted or blown away we have been able to venture a little farther onto these surfaces.  That being said, we expect 4-5 inches of snow today. 

I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to read this, and I certainly appreciate your continued patience regarding access to the ice.  We all want to get out there and skate!


Ben Stentz

Executive Director of Recreation



Registration for all 2017-2018 Fall & Winter programs is now OPEN! 




Online registration for Princeton Recreation Department is available through the CommunityPass Online Registration System. You can now securely register your entire family for all Princeton Recreation Dept. programs & memberships at one time from the comfort of your home or workplace, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Once your account is created, you will receive an email that contains your unique family login information. Be sure to keep this email in a safe place so that you can continue to enjoy the convenience of online registration. If you prefer to register with a paper form, either download from the "handouts" section, or simply visit our office: Princeton Recreation Department, 380 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, NJ 08540



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