June 6, 2023

After the instalment of a toboggan fence in 2019, friends and family have been sledding from halfway down the hill as part of the new safety measures put in place by the city. Now, there is a chance that the hill may extend to the top once again.

“Staff are undertaking a review of McLennan Park,” said Niall Lobley, the Director of Parks & Cemeteries for the City of Kitchener. This includes looking at whether an alternative design for the toboggan run may allow for a different layout increasing the available length of run, and negating the current run and therefore need for the fence.

A wooden fence splits the hill into two horizontal sections, the bottom of which serves as the sledding portion, as can be seen from the photo below.

An overview of the fence, adorned by yellow caution signs on Nov. 11, 2021. (Spoke
News/Devin Shubaly.) / A jogger making his way down a manmade path (Spoke News/Devin Shubaly.)

There are also pictographic instructions on the fence, showing where a person must go once they are down the hill, preventing any head-on collisions which may occur if someone attempted to go up the way they came.

“Last year saw one of the busiest seasons ever at McLennan and there were no complaints in respect to the new measures put in place,” said Lobley. “[The] addition of the fence has improved customer use and experience at the Hill and allowed the City to support almost a doubling of operational days.”

In part, this is because of the lack of effect that ice would have on the sledding part of the hill, as the conditions would send attendees into the bottom fence in years previous because of the hazardous speeds.

Lobley notes that there have been ‘less impacts at the base of the hill’, although there are no statistics kept on the numbrt of injuries which occur at the hill each year, which means that these observations are anecdotal.

“I think it’s all right, doesn’t change the route too much,” said Kevin Delan, who jogs along one of the paths that adorn both sides of the hill. These two manmade walkways were not the original intended method of transportation for those running in the warmer times of the year.

A gate in the middle of the fence, which links the lower portion to the top of the hill, is meant to be a throughpoint for those heading to the top. Because of the overgrowth, this is no longer a viable path for park visitors to take.

A view of the overgrown fence from inside the tall grass (Spoke
News/Devin Shubaly.)

But with the anecdotes of decreased injuries, increased tobogganing time, and a safer hill, the fence is expected to be a ‘permanent’ fixture for the foreseeable future.

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