Oshawa Council does about-face on toboggan ban and returns policy to “use at own risk”

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Published January 30, 2023 at 3:18 pm

Justin Tang, Canadian Press

A debate in the council chambers Monday morning on banning tobogganing on all but two hills in Oshawa went downhill quickly but the often heated discussion – a rare challenge to a ruling by Mayor Dan Carter was included among the amendments – amounted to nothing as the councillors eventually decided to scrap the motion altogether and return to the status quo.

Tobogganing will be allowed on all Oshawa hills with users told they are tobogganing at their own risk.

The Community & Operations Services Committee approved a prohibition of tobogganing at all but Knight of Columbus Park on Farewell Street and Grandview Village Park at Bloor and Grandview streets (pending Council approval) at a recent meeting, setting off a firestorm of negative response from the public.

The prohibition was put in place at committee because of a death of a young girl in Ottawa a few years ago on a toboggan hill and because of rising insurance and maintenance costs from the Durham Municipal Insurance Pool, who performed an audit on ten Oshawa hills last year.

Other hills looked at included Woodview Park, Eastbourne Park, Hyde Park, McLaughlin Park, Chopin Park, Somerset Park, Mountjoy Park and Coldstream Park.

Council received eight letters opposed to the ruling (with zero in favour) and many of those citizens were in the galley Monday to hear a two-hour debate that got a bit testy at times.

Numerous amendments were attempted to soften the impact of the ban, including one by Councillor John Gray where city inspectors would review the other eight  parks on the list in the hopes of getting some (at least five, Gray predicted) on the approved list for next season.

“We all want to see the kids have fun but it would be irresponsible if we didn’t do everything to mitigate the risks,” he said. “Next year, get your wax for your toboggan and let’s go tobogganing.”

Councillor Brian Nicholson, however, called the amendment “sugar coating” on a motion where there is “no public support” and added that approving the ban will “embarrass the city” in the eyes of other communities.

“Parents look after their children and they don’t need Big Brother to look after them. We can’t as a society become so risk adverse that people stop using our city parks.”

Nicholson said the simple way to make sure the parks are safe is to simply remove the dangerous obstacles like trees and rocks at the bottom of the hills. “We’re banning the user instead of removing the obstacle. Don’t ban tobogganing. We are over-reacting here.”

With apparent frustration mounting – “We could complicate a cheese sandwich,” Councillor Jim Lee said – Council decided to send the motion back to committee for further tweaking, with that amendment passing by a 7-4 margin.

But in a further twist, councillors returned from their lunch break with a new idea and voted to re-consider the plan and return the original motion to the council floor. This time the ruling was defeated, sending the prohibition to the trash and returning the by-law to the way it was.

In the meantime, staff will continue to inspect tobogganing hills for safety concerns, a job they assured council can be done within their operational budget.

Clarington is also reviewing its tobogganing policy following the audit report from the insurance pool but have decided for now to just install ‘use at own risk’ signs on eight local hills.

Staff will prepare a report and draft a policy to identify which Clarington hills could meet the safety recommendations outlined in the audit and can be feasibly implemented as ‘sanctioned’ toboggan hills for the 2023-24 winter season.

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