September 23, 2020

BY KALI CAUDLE

Looking back at my childhood, one clear memory stands out, tobogganing. Once the snow fell and covered the ground, I remember getting all bundled up in my winter clothes from head to toe, grabbing a Krazy Karpet and hitting the hills. During the winter months this was a regular routine.

I knew the risks as I climbed the hill over and over again. But there are risks with everything we do. We risk our safety when we cross the roads, drive vehicles and when we leave the house.
How can this be any different?

But a growing number of cities, including Hamilton, have either banned tobogganing or are considering banning it due to concerns about liability and serious injuries. The fact that the City of Hamilton was ordered by a court in 2013 to pay Hamilton lawyer Bruno Uggenti $900,000 after he injured his spine on a toboggan after hitting a snow-covered drainage ditch, doesn’t help the “let us toboggan” cause.

Despite a “no tobogganing” sign and a long-standing bylaw that prohibits any sports or related activities outside preordained sections, Uggenti took to the hill. He assumedly knew the risks as he had previously sustained injuries in a separate tobogganing accident in 2000.

Orangeville has been the recent focus of media’s attention. The city has been accused, wrongly, of implementing a tobogganing ban because of a “no tobogganing” sign at a popular hill. In fact, Orangeville does not have a ban. The sign has been in place since 2009 and no local authorities are seeking to outlaw sledding.

The concern is that the popular, Orangeville tobogganing hill is uninsured for sledding. Despite the fact that there isn’t a ban, residents still turned out for a “sled-in.”

But if cruising downhill with friends and family continues to be on thin ice, where will tobogganers go? Citizens find their own hills to toboggan on, but they may not be the safest. Maybe the municipalities should designate hills specifically for tobogganing, although they may still have to worry about legal actions.

When I was a child, tobogganing was never a huge issue. I think parents should inform their children of the risks around tobogganing, supervise them and, if it comes down to it, make sure they wear a helmet for extra protection.

And the courts shouldn’t award huge, or any, damages to injured tobogganers. We know the risks going in, just like we know them if we go skiing or snowboarding.

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