‘What are we going to do? Give little Johnny or Suzy a ticket?’ Oshawa eyes tobogganing ban for most parks
Published Tuesday, January 17, 2023 5:04PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 17, 2023 5:04PM EST
Tobogganing could soon be banned at all but two parks in Oshawa, a move that one city councillor says would be an “overreaction” to a fatal incident on a hill in the nation’s capital two years ago.
On Monday, Oshawa’s community and operations services committee voted 4-2 in favour of a staff recommendation to prohibit tobogganing on all city property, with the exception of “designated tobogganing hills” at Knights of Columbus Park and Grandview Village Park.
Staff say that the measure is in response to “a risk assessment of sanctioned and unsanctioned toboggan hills” that was conducted by the insurance provider for Durham municipalities following an incident in another community.
But Ward 5 Coun. Brian Nicholson told CP24.com that if the city goes through with the measure, which still has to be approved by council as a whole, it may as well change its slogan to “Oshawa: no fun allowed.”
“I have probably had about 15 to 20 emails since yesterday, it is all over Facebook and other social media and the general reaction from the community is this is the stupidest idea they ever heard,” he said. “I mean you can’t limit all liability. People swim in pools, occasionally some people get in trouble. But we don’t close pools, we don’t close beaches.”
Staff said that the risk assessment identified a number of steps that must be taken to reduce the city’s exposure to liability in areas where tobogganing is not prohibited, including an inspection program during the winter season, a warning system to communicate when conditions are appropriate for tobogganing and “site specific measures” such as the use of padding or the removal of obstacles and hazards.
They said that in order for those measures to be put in place at all 10 of the hills examined “additional temporary staff and resources would be required,” potentially costing the city at least $30,000 more a year.
But by limiting tobogganing to “two of the more popular hills,” staff say that there would be no need for additional resources and therefore no budgetary impact.
Speaking with CP24.com, Nicholson said that he believes that the seven other municipalities that are members of the Durham Municipal Insurance Pool have received similar “strongly worded” letters asking them to prohibit tobogganing on hills where minimum steps are not taken to improve safety following the death of an 11-year-old girl on a hill in Ottawa in 2021.
He said that while he can appreciate that the insurer is doing its job by “identifying risk,” common sense should prevail.
“What are we going to do? Give little Johnny or Suzy a ticket? For tobogganing? It is one of these cases where the reaction to the issue has gotten out of control and I think we are seeing a course correction now where people are saying wait a minute here,” Nicholson said. “There are maintenance and prudent steps you can take that will still allow us to mitigate risk but also allow the kids to go down and do their tobogganing.”
Oshawa’s parks bylaw currently stipulates that tobogganing is “allowed unless otherwise signed to prohibit the activity.”
The proposal to prohibit tobogganing outside of two hills will be voted on during a meeting of city council scheduled for Jan. 30.
Nicholson said that while he would be “stunned” if a majority of city council ultimately votes to ban tobogganing in Oshawa, he is nonetheless urging residents who are concerned about the proposal to contact their representatives.
“If the public makes their voice heard I think we can win this quite handily,” he said.