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Authorities attempt to prevent drivers using popular frozen lake

Police officers measuring speed on the Männiku ice road.
Police officers measuring speed on the Männiku ice road. Source: Facebooki Männiku ice road group/Griina-Janika Aleksandrovskaja

The Estonian Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), along with other state authorities are attempting to restrict drivers from driving onto an ice-covered near Tallinn. However, the locks on gates preventing access to the lake have been broken.

For a number of years, people have been driving on the frozen Tammemäe Lake in Harju County, with dozens doing so last weekend alone. Now however, the police have decided to intervene.

Taavi Kirss, head of traffic supervision at the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board's (PPA) Northern Prefecture's, stressed that Tammemäe Lake is not an official ice track. "We don't really know how thick the ice is there. There are also fishers on the ice. And those who drive there have said themselves that it is not a place for beginners. That the speeds they go are high," Kirss said. There can be accidents. Cars have been known to sink through the ice there towards spring and there is also a danger to the environment," Kirss said.

"Because of this, our field manager has decided to impose a ban on being there."

Kirss promised that the PPA would continue to monitor the situation on the spot. "However, above all, it is down to the owner of the road or the land to make the place safe enough and prevent access," he added.

Locks blown off

Several roads lead to the lake. In front of one of the main ones is a gate, which officials have padlocked, while the key was left with the PPA. "If you read the comments on social media afterwards, then allegedly, people had already broken these locks to get back on the ice," said Kirss, who added that such behavior is unacceptable.

As the lake belongs to the state, the PPA had asked the Land Board to take over responsibility for securing the gate. However, the Land Board says the gate belongs to the Transport Authority (Transpordiamet).

Margus Magus, head of maintenance and traffic management at the northern branch of the Transport Authority, confirmed that the agency's road maintenance officer had put a new padlock on the gate.

"To be honest, the lock is probably not even there now. I have information to suggest that it has been cut through and the gate is open again," said Magus, who added that the agency had also installed a no entry sign on the side of the road.

The question of whether the roadblocks set by the PPA and the Transport Authority are fair gain to be broken has become the subject of a lively debate on social media. Some say it is inappropriate to go against the landowner's wishes, while others say the authorities are the ones acting out of line..

"What is really needed here is to get to the heart of the matter," said Magus. "If we reopen this for more than two days, then it would not be sustainable."

PPA would favor opening official and controlled ice track

Magus said the Transport Authority could also dig a road to the lake, however that would prevent property owners from being able to access their properties. Plus, there are still other options for those driving to the ice on the other side of the lake.

To close them, the police asked the State Forest Management Center (RMK) for assistance. The RMK said it would be able to deal with one of the roads if Elektrilevi allows it to do so, as the same path may also be needed to repair power lines. As for the other road, the RMK said it would be managed by the Land Board.

Another possible solution would be to open an official and controlled ice track. However, this would require even more cooperation between different state agencies.

"As the police, we would be really pleased if there was an officially organized place where you could drive on the ice and practice," said Kirss. "We then need to know how thick the ice layer is, we need to be sure that there are no fishers between the tracks and we need to make sure that the number of cars on the track is such that they don't endanger each other."

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Editor: Michael Cole

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