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The bureaucrat's guide to safe tobogganing in Hamilton

Hay bales, regular inspections and signs about the risks associated with tobogganing to help enthusiasts enjoy the winter activity.

City staff suggest three locations and new rules for safe sledding

City staff have recommended three locations where tobogganing would be permitted as part of a pilot project in 2015/16. (City of Hamilton)

The quintessential winter activity of tobogganing will be legally returning to Hamilton once the snow flies if city council approves a number of rules and measures to ensure safe sledding.

In an effort to end the city's much publicized and criticized tobogganing ban, the city's risk management team, lawyers and public works bureaucrats together mapped out a number of procedures and rules tobogganing in the city

There will be no grabbing a sled and heading down just any old hill.

In a report going to general issues committee Wednesday, staff have designated three spots ideal for a tobogganing pilot project: Chedoke Golf Course, Lake Ave. Park and Garth St. Reservoir.

 Here's an overview of how legal tobogganing in Hamilton will work.

The "legal" hills

Staff "evaluated these locations based upon whether the city owned the site, the current condition of the hill … determined the fewest barriers currently in place and the number of safety constraints that could be addressed using immediate and temporary measures."

Access?

Staff also looked at which locations would be best geographically for the greatest number of residents.

Hay bales required

To keep people from hitting trees or stumps, staff recommend placing hay bales around them.

Snow fencing, too

Snow fencing will be used to let people know when they are coming close to a ditch or where there might not be enough room for tobogganers to ride their sleds until it stops on its own.

Remove obstacles

Staff will also remove anything they can, such as benches and picnic tables, to avoid collisions.

How to practice safe sledding

As well, staff will create a public awareness campaign about how to stay safe when careening down a snow-covered hill.

Signs, signs, everywhere signs

Signs should be erected at the approved tobogganing spots "to advise users of the inherent risk involved with tobogganing activities and measures that can be taken to lessen the risk," the staff report said.

How do you close a hill?

As well, signs will give "hours of operation" for the hills "to discourage activities on the site after dark."

Inspections required

City staff will inspect the three approved of hills three times a week – once on a weekday, once on Saturday and once on Sunday – to "remediate manageable dangers" and fix things like the above-mentioned hay bales and snow fencing.

"The inspections will not be a 'policing' of activities on the site, but an assessment of the hill condition itself," the staff report said.

Drive-in access

 As well, it will cost $11,200 to ensure the golf course is accessible by city vehicle.

Budget and staffing

Getting the three hills ready and inspecting them for approximately 12 weeks of tobogganing fun will cost $12,000 per hill, staff estimated. That's a grand total of $47,200. No new staff will be needed unless more hills are added to the pilot project, the report said.

If the report is not accepted by council, it will mean tobogganing will still be considered a banned activity under a bylaw that was created after two large lawsuits were filed against the city from people injured while sledding.

When it comes to those other popular spots for tobogganing that did not get picked for the pilot project, the "no tobogganing" signs will be replaced with signs warning users the hills are not maintained or inspected.

Staff do not recommend banning the activity for another winter season.

If approved, the pilot project will begin Dec. 18, to coincide with school holiday closures.

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