‘No fun city:’ Residents, councillor speak out against tobogganing ban at 45 hills across Toronto

Tobogganing has been banned at 45 hills across Toronto, including a popular park in an East Danforth neighbourhood. Shauna Hunt with furious residents and why the city deemed the hill unsafe.

By Shauna Hunt and Meredith Bond

Residents are speaking out about the impact of the tobogganing ban on 45 hills across Toronto.

East Lynn Park was one of the parks that was assessed using the city’s toboggan hill inspection program, which was implemented in 2017.

The process deemed the park unsafe due to “several permanent obstacles and safety hazards onsite, including a staircase, wading pool, field house building, light poles and trees.”

Nearby residents say tobogganing on this hill has been popular for decades and say that hay bales and fences are usually put up to make it safer, but not this year.

Jack, a neighbourhood resident, said he and his friends will spend all day on the hill during the winter.

“Normally, we have two or three ramps built up will stay here from 9 in the morning ’til 10 on night. We’ll just stay all day long. Have fun.” He was upset to hear the city put a ban in place, but said it likely wouldn’t affect whether he uses the hill.

“I could see why it would be dangerous. There’s a lot of trees and stuff but I feel like if they [can] cover them with hay bales or whatever they’ve been doing for the past 18 years I’ve been living here,” said Jack.

Donald Smith and Randy Jordan said they had both lived in neighbourhood since they were born more than 60 years ago and were shocked to hear about the ban. “We grew up in this neighborhood. They’re going ban it, which is ridiculous because it’s a sort of neighborhood park to go to,” said Smith.

On Monday morning, two of the four signs indicating the closure of the tobogganing hill had been ripped out of the ground.

Two of the signs put up at East Lynn Park informing residents of the ban on tobogganing have been pulled out of the ground. CITYNEWS

The city councillor for the area, Brad Bradford, said that since he heard about signs going up, his inbox was flooded with correspondence.

Bradford added he is among the countless families who bring their kids to East Lynn Park to toboggan and is unsure why the hay bales and snow fences were not an option this year.

“I think it leaves a lot of people scratching their head. ‘Why is this the direction that the city of Toronto is pursuing right now going? Are there not other ways to mitigate the risk? And I think common sense would suggest they absolutely are right.”

He understands the city is trying to manage and mitigate risks for themselves, but there are different ways to mange the challenges on a site-by-site basis.

“The reality is people are going to be using this hill. I understand they want to mitigate risk. Well, you mitigate it by by taking precautionary measures, you mitigate it with the snow fencing, the hay bales, and you could put up signs and say, ‘Hey, we’re not responsible for any injuries that might take place.’ And again, every parent will make that assessment in that judgment call whether or not they feel comfortable with their kids tobogganing on that hill.”

Bradford believes people will just end up ignoring the signs anyway.

“We are a winter city, we say we are a family city, and this sort of response flies in the face of all of that. There there are things that we can do and that we have done in years,” said Bradford. “There’s a good chance we’re going to be out there. So let’s stop sticking our head in the snow and acknowledge how people are going to use our parks and just do what we can to make it safe for families … The city is on the wrong side of this.”

According to Bradford, if bylaw officers were to enforce the no tobogganing rule, it would be a further waste of resources.

“The potential that bylaw (officers) might go out to the park and take little Jimmy who’s on the hill and give them a ticket for tobogganing … it’s just ludicrous. We’ve lost the plot, and certainly not the best use of our time, energy or resources.”

City spokesperson Lindsay Broadhead said Toronto is responsible for ensuring its properties and any activities performed on its properties are reasonably safe.

Broadhead said East Lynn Park was deemed unsafe due to several permanent obstacles and safety hazards on-site, including a staircase, wading pool, field house building, light poles and trees.

And when asked about why the hay bales and fences hadn’t been put up this year, Broadhead said they hadn’t been working.

“The problem is it didn’t work. There were injuries and in some cases, serious injuries. So even though many riders can go down and it’s fine, some didn’t.”

She said if they had the sign up, but still installed these safety measures, there would be a “disconnect in message”

“The rules changed and where the city decided that instead of sending a mixed message this year so having a sign that says don’t toboggan and yet having mitigations again, we decided to separate those two mixed messages,” explained Broadhead. “So to decouple those two mixed messages frankly the the hay bales and the protections have not put up so as not to encourage tobogganing at areas where it’s unsafe.

Broadhead said they are focusing on the 29 hills where tobogganing is allowed in the city. A full list of hills that are deemed to be safe by the city, as well as safety tips, can be found online at toronto.ca/tobogganing.

Many residents CityNews spoke with said the next closest hill is just too far away.

“If I want to go find another hill, I got to go down to Riverdale. Half an hour-45 minute walk from here. It’s not worth it,” said Jack.

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