BY BETH CROUSE
With fresh white powder covering the ground, you may have the urge to reach for your toboggan and head for the hills, but depending on where you live, you may find those hills covered in signs informing you that tobogganing has been banned.
The fear of injuries and ensuing legal proceedings have led several communities in Ontario to consider forcing people to abandon the snow-covered hills by cracking down on sledding, if not banning them outright.
In Hamilton, the city has banned tobogganing in its parks since 2001 and anyone caught tobogganing on public property is subject to a $105 fine. However, the city was still sued in 2013 by a man who injured himself while sledding in 2004 in a park.
Despite “no tobogganing signs,” the man went down a hill and hit a snow-covered drain ditch, sending him airborne. He ended up fracturing vertebra and spending months at home recuperating. A superior court justice awarded the man $900,000.
In a CTV story, City of Kitchener bylaw enforcement director Shayne Turner said the city has no plans to ban tobogganing, however, it isn’t sitting idly by either.
“We have put up signage that indicates the risk involved with tobogganing at McLennan Park,” Turner said.
In Kitchener, McLennan Park is a popular destination for some serious sledding.
Ruebekiah Emrich, a Kitchener resident and mother of two girls, thinks that banning tobogganing is ridiculous.
“Tobogganing is only dangerous when it’s done dangerously, so putting a ban on kids having fun with such a popular winter activity is outrageous,” she said.
“I think this all comes down to supervision, or a lack of supervision. The responsibility is on the parents to keep an eye on their children and watch for any danger zones while their kids are enjoying the outdoors.
“If one of my children were ever hurt, I would blame myself for their injury, not the city. It’s my responsibility to take care of my girls, not the City of Kitchener’s.”
Melissa Frey, a Waterloo resident and mother of a young child, agrees that banning tobogganing is a bad idea.
“I feel that activities like tobogganing or swimming when no lifeguard is present are done at your own risk,” Frey said.
“If you are injured while tobogganing then no one is to blame except for the person doing the activity or the parents who were responsible for watching their children,” she added.
“Children have been enjoying winter activities like sledding for years. It’s only recently since we’ve become a sue-happy society that people try to shift the blame to someone else and ultimately end up spoiling things for everyone.
“During the winter there are so few activities that children can do, especially ones that keep them active and not indoors watching TV or playing video games so, basically, making it illegal for the children to do something that they enjoy and, for the most part, if done responsibly doesn’t result in injuries, would just be stupid.”
As far as signs protecting Kitchener from legal action or deterring sledders, it’s unclear how well they work or what they would say.
“I feel a better option would be to post signs (like they do at malls) saying the city will not be held responsible for any injury or damage incurred as a result of the activities performed there,” Frey said.