Safety check: City considers further safety measures at Albion Falls

During a meeting Thursday, an update to the public works committee will be provided about the progress of whether or not trespassers who hop over city fences at Hamilton's waterfalls will be fined.

On Thursday, the public works committee will discuss fines in effort to curb trespassing at waterfalls

The public works committee will hear of the progress be made on new safety measures at Albion Falls in addition to a discussion about enforcing laws for trespassers. (Sheryl Nadler/CBC )

As part of the ongoing efforts to increase safety at Albion Falls, the city will discuss whether recent safety measures have been effective and the possibility of taking greater steps — including fines for trespassers.

On Thursday, Kara Bunn, manager of parks and cemeteries along with Coun. Tom Jackson of Ward 6 will update the public works committee on what measures have been taken to date, and how effective they've been.

Bunn says she and Jackson will discuss, among other steps, the new signs they'll put in place over the next couple of weeks.

They'll also discuss whether the city will implement law enforcement for trespassing.

The city continues to install two-meter fencing at the site.

Bunn says there has been a mixed reaction regarding fining people who trespass. 

There are other people that feel it is public property and it's their right to be able to go there.- Kara Bunn

"I think there is some support within the community who think that, you know, people that are costing taxpayers money by damaging fences or going down and being rescued, that maybe there should be something," said Bunn.

"There are other people that feel it is public property and it's their right to be able to go there."

In addition, they'll be looking at an additional portion of fencing.

According to Bunn, one footpath in particular that comes off of the south side, coming off of the Bruce Trail, leading out onto the outcrop is a point that could use more fencing, or even an informal viewing platform.

She says many of the Bruce Trail paths are rough and not inspected at often as a city path would be.

The update to council comes weeks after an on-site meeting at Albion Falls where city stakeholders looked at the most dangerous areas.

As a result of the June 23 meeting, the city has allocated $50,000 for additional fencing.

Jackson found the needed funds from his ward's area rating fund.

"I was able to utilize $50,000 to expedite the purchase of the fencing," said Jackson.  

The fencing has been installed on an ongoing basis over the past few weeks. Bunn says it continued Monday after a recent equipment breakdown halted efforts last week. 

Jackson is optimistic the six-foot black chain-link fence will deter "thrill seekers."

He told CBC that he sat in his car Monday night and noticed people walk up to the fence and warning signs, then turn towards the safe viewing platform. 

I'm hoping that they're going to be overall favourable that the measures taken were absolutely needed.- Tom Jackson 

"It was encouraging to see most of them as they wanted to go down, just pause and take a second breath and decide, "You know what? No, forget it,'" said Jackson.

He says he's "cautiously optimistic" the chain-linked fencing in the three strategic spots where people are known to be rescued from, will allow people to think twice before heading down.

"I'm hoping that they're going to be overall favourable that the measures taken were absolutely needed," said Jackson ahead of Thursday's meeting.

Jackson also isn't giving up on the 'shock' signs he wants to see be put in place. These will be a collaborative effort with both the legal and risk management departments. 

Obviously people want to closer to the falls itself.- Tom Jackson

His long-term vision includes a platform closer to the falls to discourage people from hiking down.

"It's obvious to me that the lookout platform, as beautiful as it is, from the north side down to the falls, obviously people want to be closer to the falls itself. But I've got to be given time, and obviously find some money, in order to possibly do that kind of thing," said Jackson.

To date, there have been at least eight emergency responses to all of Hamilton's waterfalls this year — including the death of a Toronto man in his twenties after slipping at Albion Falls.

The most recent rescue was Sunday at Albion Falls. According to Jackson, a woman jumped over the fencing and broke her leg. She was transported to hospital.

Rescues this year

  • Feb. 5: Devil's Punch Bowl (rope rescue).
  • June 3: Albion Falls (rope rescue).  
  • June 10: Albion Albion Falls (death).
  • June 11: Albion Falls (rope rescue).
  • June 20: Albion Falls (rope rescue).
  • June 24: Webster Falls (rope rescue).
  • June 25: Albion Falls (not a rope rescue). 
  • July 9: Albion Falls (not a rope rescue).