Thin Ice: 3 People Per Day Fell Through The Ice The Past 2 Days at Retreat Meadows

The Retreat Meadows outdoor ice skating across from Grafton Cheese factory outlet store on Rt 30 in Brattleboro: THIN ICE. 3 people fell through today. I saw 2 of them. I organized a rescue for one of them, but then he managed to get out before we had to actually do it, thankfully. 3 people fell through yesterday.

The West River is completely open water with no ice, all the way up to Townshend. This means the water is being warmed by the sun, the whole time it’s coming down the river. 20+ miles. The water is warmer than freezing temperature by the time it gets to Brattleboro, and melts the ice from underneath. This isn’t apparent by looking at the surface of the ice.

There is open water with a current, right next to the ice that people are skating on.

What direction is the current going in? Is it a curve? How do curved currents work? Might a portion of it be going under the ice? What do you think will happen if you fall in right there?

One of the people who fell in today broke a 6-foot-diameter hole. An ordinary size guy. What does that mean about the condition of the ice?

What do you think happens to the ice on a day that’s above freezing and raining?

The reason there are no signs saying to stay off the ice or telling where the boundaries of the safe ice are, is because no public safety entity monitors it.  (I checked.) It’s completely up to the common sense of the people who ice skate.

So please please please use your common sense.  Especially stay a distance away from open water, thin ice, ice that covers a place that you know has a strong current, or ice where there was open water just a few days ago.   And please give guidance to children about this.   Rescuing people is cold, dangerous, and not always successful.   By using your common sense, you’re also protecting the health and safety of any ordinary people or professional rescuers who might rescue you.

I might suggest that people lay off of skating there on new years day.


Heidi Henkel, Putney, VT, skated there today,

Comments | 2

  • Retreat Strangeness

    Glad you brought this up. This year the Retreat Meadows seems very strange – not necessarily bad, but definitely different.

    Enormous amounts of skaters seemed to have tracked down the location and taken over. Ice huts, which typically fill the space, are comparatively absent.

    This is probably caused by social media sharing, the way fields of sunflowers have been destroyed because someone posted a picture then everyone followed:

    Social media can be a real danger – not only to nature, but to stupid people who don’t think about where they are skating, and don’t really care if they cause damage or waste others time rescuing them.

    It could also be party Grafton Cheese drawing tourists to that easy entry to the ice – part of their promotion is the recreation around them.

    That said, the Meadows is a great place for skating when the ice is right. Brattleboro could save a fortune by decommissioning the ice rink and investing in safety at the Meadows. Sure, the skating schedule would depend on the weather, but maybe that would make more people think about the weather, too. And safety.

    Someone put up signs about boating there, so someone must be “responsible” for that location. (Grafton? The state? The Retreat? The town?) Perhaps that same someone could put up a sign about winter dangers.

  • Sheesh.

    I saw more people out Wednesday – temperature close to 32.

    Looked like some were curling, which I haven’t seen out there before.

    All appeared to above ice when I went by, though the curlers looked a bit like they were rescuing another person because they were down so low.

    I think Grafton Cheese needs to take responsibility for that entry on to the ice.

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