Toronto Council overwhelmingly reverses toboggan ban on hills in city parks

These signs prohibiting tobogganing on the hills at East Lynn Park were quickly knocked to the ground by angry residents last month. On Feb. 7, Toronto Council voted to reverse the ban on tobogganing that had been applied to 45 city parks. Photo by Alan Shackleton.

By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Toronto Council voted on Wednesday, Feb. 7, to reverse the highly criticized tobogganing ban on 45 hills across the city which were deemed unfit for the activity by the parks department due to safety concerns.

The motion was put forward by Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford and seconded by Mayor Olivia Chow who worked alongside Bradford’s office on the matter over the past five to six weeks.

“I think we all understand how important this is to our communities,” said Bradford. “And sometimes, City Council as elected officials need to stand up and really advocate hard for our communities even if that puts us in a different position than perhaps the staff’s perspective.”

Following an assessment undertaken by the City Park Supervisor and Ski Technical Staff, many hills in the city were identified as unsafe due to physical hazards such as trees and poles which could result in potential injuries to residents, according to the review.

“Many of these hills had been prohibited over an extended period of time – years in some cases,” said a city staff official during Wednesday’s Toronto Council meeting.

City officials said that the program was designed in 2017 with the intention of creating safer environments for tobogganing by establishing designated hills which undergo weekly inspections.

Although many residents argued that the ban was an overreach as serious injuries haven’t been reported, officials said that the decision to ban tobogganing “in some cases, was based on injuries and claims that had occurred in those locations”.

However, with the public feeling blindsided and angered by the tobogganing prohibitions, Toronto Council voted 21-3 in favour of Bradford’s recommendations to reverse the decision with councillors Mike Colle, Stephen Holyday, and Gord Perks voting against it.

“No fishing rescinded; no barking rescinded; and now, no tobogganing to be rescinded,” said Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher who reminisced over past prohibitions that Toronto Council overturned.

During the meeting, Bradford inquired as to the rationale behind removing the hay bales and snow fencing that were previously installed as proactive measures to minimize potential injuries on hills in city parks.

With intentions of sending a clear message to the public that certain hills were unsafe for the winter activity, officials said installing these safety measures on prohibited hills would send a conflicting message as it signalled an environment in which tobogganing was being encouraged.

Furthermore, officials said that the hay bales are “not regularly inspected” and provide inadequate support against collision. This is due to a lack of resources needed to manage inspections on a regular basis.

With the ban being reversed, however, it is expected that these safety measures will be reinstalled as residents return to the hills in their favourite city parks for some winter fun – if any snow actually does fall in Toronto this season.

– Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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