TOBOGGAN BANS: Not yet in Cornwall, says mayor

TOBOGGAN BANS: Not yet in Cornwall, says mayor
Cornwall may one day have to examine the idea of banning tobogganing on municipal property

CORNWALL, Ontario – Cornwall may one day have to examine the idea of banning tobogganing on municipal property, but there’s no push in that direction just yet.

Some critics are lambasting other communities in Canada that have outlawed the quintessential winter pastime of sledding down hills because of the liability the practice incurs.

Lawsuits have begun to spring up in some locales where people have injured themselves tobogganing, so municipalities are simply banning the activity on their land to protect taxpayers from forking over extra cash.

Cornwall Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy said the city has yet to examine the issue, and has not received any complaints that would require a reaction from city hall.

But the mayor adds he can see it coming.

“I hope it doesn’t get to that point,” he said. “We have rinks – and our insurance covers that because it is on public land.”

But what about popular toboggan locales like the hill on Race Street?

“That’s not maintained by the city nor by a group of individuals,” said O’Shaughnessy. “It’s just people going on public land and using it.”

Hamilton, Ont. is one of only a few Canadian cities to have a full ban on tobogganing. Ottawa has a partial ban, with a list of more than 50 so-called “approved” areas to go sledding.

Coun. Claude McIntosh also concedes the issue is something the city may have to eventually explore, if the trend across North America continues.

Many U.S. cities also ban tobogganing.

“It’s a part of growing up,” said McIntosh. “But if you have 15,000 toboggan trips in one winter, all it takes is one.

“But it’s one of those things, do we have to do that?”

McIntosh pointed to the fact that municipalities can’t effectively police the issue.

“You can’t be there 24 hours a day to stop that,” he said. “It just shows all those lawsuits and ambulance chasers.”

Indeed, CTV News reported even with restrictions and hill closures during icy periods, it’s unclear whether cities are protected from lawsuits. In 2013, the city of Hamilton was ordered to pay $900,000 to a man who injured his spine in 2004 while sliding down a city-owned hill near a reservoir.

Doctors have urged sledders to wear protective clothing, including a helmet, because it appears tobogganing is here to stay.

Coun. Mark MacDonald suggested the city could erect signs, if it came to that, at popular toboggan areas advising sledders that heading down the hill will be done at their own risk.

MacDonald is against toboggan bans.

“We need to encourage outdoor activity ‎and use common sense,” he said. “Or we can wrap all the kids in Cornwall in bubble wrap‎ when they go outside to play.”

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