Mooney’s Bay Hill will remain closed to tobogganers this winter

There will be no tobogganing on Mooney’s Bay Hill this winter after all.

A motion from Coun. Riley Brockington called on city staff to safely re-open the north-facing side of the hill for sledding this winter while keeping other sides closed.

The motion failed by a vote of 11 yeas to 12 nays.

Councillors Glen Gower, Shawn Menard, Stéphanie Plante, Jessica Bradley, David Brown, Marty Carr, Clarke Kelly, Sean Devine, Rawlson King and Ariel Troster voted alongside Brockington in support. Steve Desroches, Catherine Kitts, Jeff Leiper, Theresa Kavanagh, Laine Johnson, Wilson Lo, Cathy Curry, Matthew Luloff, Laura Dudas, David Hill, George Darouze, and Mayor Mark Sutcliffe voted against it.

Two councillors, Allan Hubley and Tim Tierney, were not present for the vote.

Brockington’s motion’ came in response to a staff report saying the hill—that for years has not been an approved sledding hill—should remain closed, following the death of a young girl last winter. Josée Abi Assal was tobogganing with her family on Dec. 27, 2021 when the sled she was on slammed into a pole at the bottom of the hill. She died in hospital.

A municipal risk assessment found that no area of the hill was safe for tobogganing and the city has installed robust fencing around it to keep tobogganers away this winter.

“The idea is no one gets on the hill. It’s construction fencing, so it’s robust,” said Recreation, Cultural and Facility Services general manager Dan Chenier.

Brockington objected to a blanket closure of the hill.

“The public is looking for an option here and that’s to bring that fencing down from the summit and allow people a starting point, even at the midpoint, which I believe is doable and can be done,” he said.

Chenier noted, however, that the hill has been considered unsafe for many years.

“Where we do have concern is with opening any section of the hill under temporary measures,” he said. “The consultant that we hired back in January, as a result of the fatality, recommended that we not sanction sledding on this hill.”

Chenier said the city’s consultant estimated that the speed of sleds could be 70 to 80 km/h at their fastest. The north side of the hill could also lead to possible conflict with cross-country skiers who cross that area.

“We fundamentally believe the hill, unless it is significantly modified, should not be reopened,” Chenier said.

City solicitor David White also said there was a legal risk to the city in not following the advice of safety consultants.

“There is obviously a risk in the event that the municipality proceeds irrespective of the recommendations. Staff can do whatever is possible to reduce the risk, but there is no solution that serves to adequately mitigate the risk of injury … based on its current configuration,” he said.

Sutcliffe told reporters after the meeting that he voted against the motion because of the safety concerns that were raised.

“What I heard from staff and other councillors around the table is that there were some concerns about safety and about the city’s responsibility and so I chose to vote against the motion for that reason. Any time we’re talking about safety and risk we should be cautious.”

MODIFICATION PLAN CARRIED

The motion was split to allow councillors to vote on reopening the hill separately from the second half that directed staff to come up with ways to make the hill safer and report back to council next year.

Brockington asked that staff develop options to physically change the north-facing side to allow that portion of the hill to become a sanctioned tobogganing site.

Recommendations would be presented to appropriate committees by the fourth quarter of 2023.

Council supported the plan unanimously.

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