The city will start charging people who climb fences and ignore warning signs at Albion Falls in an attempt to curb months of deaths and injuries there.
'We just couldn't stand pat.' - Coun. Tom Jackson
Hamilton city councillors voted Thursday to put up "no trespassing signs" and start slapping $105 tickets on people who ignore them.
More bylaw enforcement officers will visit the area now, the city says, and watch for people who enter restricted areas. When they see someone do that, they'll ticket them.
Tom Jackson, Ward 6 councillor who's been trying to think of ways to stop people from falling at the cascading waterfall, says he's "very pleased" it's going to happen.
"We just couldn't stand pat," he said after Thursday's public works committee vote. City council is due to ratify the decision on Friday.
"In spite of media campaigns, in spite of website campaigns, in spite of promotional campaigns about how to use the falls safely, the message wasn't getting out."
The city has been trying for years to stop people from falling at its waterfalls. But as the waterfalls grow increasingly popular, more people seem to be getting hurt at them — and even dying.
Last year, for example, Hamilton emergency crews performed 25 rope rescues, the highest number in at least seven years. Six of those were at Albion Falls.
The trend continues this year, with numerous rescues at Albion Falls. In June, a Toronto-based photographer fell and died there.
City staff have erected a fence and "Keep Out" signs around Albion Falls, but some people have peeled them back or climbed over them, Jackson said.
The city wants people to visit Albion Falls, he said. And most visitors don't climb over fences.
"The overwhelming majority of visitors enjoying this panoramic area of the city are doing it safely," he said. "But obviously, there's an increased number of misadventurers."
The city only has three or four bylaw enforcement officers on the average weekend shift, said Ken Leendertse, director of licensing. To cover Albion Falls, the city will have to divert them from other areas.
The city fine for entering restricted areas is $105, Leendertse said. Under the Ontario Trespass to Property Act, which police issue fines for, the penalty is not more than $10,000.
Ticketing brings its own problems, Leendertse told councillors.
If people know they're about to be fined, they sometimes run away, he said. Given the nature of Albion Falls, that's dangerous.
Sam Merulla, the Ward 4 councillor who moved to proactively patrol and fine people, said that could apply to any kind of enforcement, from trespassing to chasing hardened criminals.
"Where do you draw the line at that one?" he said.
"I'm prepared to help people protect themselves by encouraging proactive enforcement."
Jackson's long term goal is to install at least one viewing platform at Albion Falls. City staff are already working on designs.