Protesters defy Ontario town's tobogganing rules
Michael Shulman, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Sunday, January 11, 2015 7:05PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, January 11, 2015 7:23PM EST
It was an unusual act of defiance: adults and children alike bundled up in their warmest winter gear, launching themselves on sleds down a snow-crested hill in Orangeville, Ont.
The object of their resistance: a “No tobogganing” sign posted Wednesday at Murray's Mountain.
Dozens of people turned up for a "sled in" at the Orangeville hill on Sunday morning to protest the presence of the sign.
The outrage began on Wednesday after residents took to social media to vent their frustration over the ban on a Canadian winter tradition.
Rob Stewart organized the "sled in" on Facebook, inviting people to "get together and have a great time tobogganing."
Stewart understands that the town might have concerns about liability issues, but doesn't believe a ban on tobogganing is justified.
“To say no tobogganing outright is just unfair and such a disadvantage for the kids," he told CTV Barrie.
"The sign should say toboggan at your own risk -- I think that’s reasonable. I don't think anyone expects the town to be liable for what happens when you're tobogganing."
A press release issued by the Town of Orangeville on Thursday said the new sign was posted so that it is more visible to people climbing the hill. The release says it replaced a sign posted in 2009 for "safety concerns," as directed by the town's insurance company.
Murray's Mountain is not insured as a toboggan hill, according to the release.
"While we all appreciate fun winter activities, some of them have inherent risks and bring liability issues for municipalities," said the town's parks and recreation director Ed Brennan.
The sign has now been replaced by a handwritten sign that reads, "Save tobogganing.”
"It’s a liability thing and I get that, and we’re just going to take the precautions and let the kids have fun," says Allison Pavacic, who attended the "sled in."
The number of cities across North America with tobogganing bans is growing. Fears about potential injuries has prompted cities like Hamilton, Ont to issue full bans, and others like the City of Ottawa to restrict tobogganing to certain hills.
Orangeville Mayor Jeremy Williams, who also attended the event, says he will bring up the issues at the town council meeting on Monday. He said there is no official by-law prohibiting tobogganing on Murray's Mountain, and that the ban has never been enforced.
Williams said the town will work with its insurance company to allow tobogganing.
"We’re going to be going back with our insurance company to see just what our responsibilities are," he said. "How do we resolve this liability issue so people can still come out and toboggan?"
And for many of those who attended the protest on Sunday, getting out to toboggan in the winter months is simply a fact of life.
"I've been tobogganing on this hill almost my entire life, and to think that this could be place where we can't broke my heart," said Amanda Olmstead.