Tobogganing Under Fire
All week, I have been reading media regarding the tobogganing bans that are being issued by municipalities, in light of the decision by City of Hamilton to restrict sledding on their property.
As a municipal employee who works in recreation, and an active mom with little people who love the outdoors, I understand the issue from both side of the coin.
Recreation involves risk
In all things recreation, inherently there is a risk. As land owners, facility managers and providers of spontaneous recreation, municipalities have a responsibility to provide safe spaces. Hours, and days are spent each year, reviewing due diligence on every angle you can imagine for these spaces.
Having worked for many different types of recreation businesses, municipalities and non-profit organizations, these groups have the best interest of the public at heart. No employee wants to put their first aid or emergency skills into play. Recreation providers want you to get active with your family – be active, and stay healthy. Safety is always and will continue to be the number one priority.
I understand why municipalities are taking to step to have a by-law that states no tobogganing to cover their assets. In my mind, common sense dictates that they may never enforce the by-law.
Is Sledding a High Risk Activity?
Parents inherently don’t see tobogganing as a high-risk activity. I admit, in my backyard with a free 38 acre mountain biking park and miles of mountain trails, I could come up with more activities that involve a greater degree of risk than sledding. As a parent who has participated in high-risk activities from rock climbing to scuba diving, I don’t view tobogganing as high-risk either.
What I do understand is as participant in recreation, user of public facilities and lands, I am taking on risk. I do understand that I have personal responsibility to reduce the risk however I can.
Personal responsibility & smart risks
As a parent, if I choose a hill that is too steep, or too risky for my children, I didn’t do my homework. If I don’t check out the hill before they start sledding on it, I have let them down. There are steps that can be taken to every activity to ensure safety before setting out. This personal responsibility will always lie with the user of the activity.
Moreover, I want to teach my children how to assess the risk and make smart choices. I do want them to participate in activities that have elements of risk in them. As parents, we need to allow them to take smart risks, learn from their success or failures. I want them to know how to assess a tobogganing hill for safety, know what safety gear they can use, and what things to look out for.
Kids need the outdoors – now more than ever
With the average child racking up an astounding 7 hours a day in front of screens, and simple outdoor play under fire with helicopter parents, children need these easy outdoor activities more than ever. Being frozen out an activity due to inherent risk in outdoor recreation isn’t acceptable.
As a kid, I can remember dragging my heavy metal GT Snow Racer to the local hill and spending hours trudging up and for that joy filled slide to the bottom. The hill was so steep that at times, you could get the tobogganing moving so fast it would deposit you on to the shore of Lake Ontario. The other hill we enjoyed was a golf course that who had posted signs that said no tobogganing – we went anyway. This time spent being active with my family laid a foundation for me to be Active for Life.
One of the key components is that we played together. My parents supervised us while we tobogganed and taught us how to evaluate the risk, and make smart decisions on what runs were safe. More bylaws aren’t the answer – educating parents on how to teach smart risk taking and using safety gear is. Our kids need more unstructured play opportunities, and physical activity.
So, if you need me, I’ll be on the hill tobogganing with my family.