Reductio ad absurdum

January 14, 2015   ·   0 Comments

THE LATIN PHRASE is applied appropriately to describe a conclusion that when examined is found to be patently absurd.

And that’s precisely how we, and we suspect most others, see the posting of “Murray’s Mountain” as a place where tobogganing is prohibited.

It’s really akin to posting ice rinks as “no skating” or ski hills as “no skiing.”

And we’re told that while there’s a new sign warning against tobogganing there, the ban has existed ever since 2009, when the Town of Orangeville purchased it and other nearby land that its previous owner, the Upper Grand District School Board, had deemed surplus to its needs.

Ironically, the “Mountain,” which might more realistically be designated “Murray’s Molehill,” was created many years ago by the old Dufferin County Board of Education, and was specifically built as a safe spot for kids to use toboggans or sleds when there was enough snow.

It was named for the late Murray Young, who came up with the idea while the county’s Director of Education.

Unlike many natural hills used by tobogganers, this one has no trees or other obstructions that would realistically pose a safety hazard.

It’s probably a safe knoll as anyone could imagine.

Yet the ban was imposed at the request (demand?) of the town’s insurer, which presumably made similar demands elsewhere as the result of successful lawsuits by persons injured while tobogganing on municipal lands.

Our strong suspicion is that the insurer in question never visited the site or inquired with the school board as to whether anyone had ever been seriously hurt using the mound for its intended purpose.

Whatever the case, we think Orangeville Council should do a lot more than just sit back and blame the ban on the insurer.

One option, of course, would be to seek a different insurer who was prepared to investigate the real risks and offer liability coverage at a reasonable rate.

Even if that can’t be accomplished, we think the Town should accept the fact that the hill is designed for tobogganing and opt to regulate the activity.

There are plenty of precedents for this approach.

Swimming pools are one example, where municipalities have established rules limiting or prohibiting diving, setting age limits and requiring adults to accompany small children.

In Orangeville, the Town responded to complaints about kids skateboarding on strrets, sidewalks and parking lots by establishing skateboard parks with their own safety rules, which have succeeded in both reducing the number of complaints and avoiding serious injury in a sport that’s far more dangerous than tobogganing.

As we see it, regulation should include a requirement that helmets be worn and parents or guardians of young children are present to monitor those in their care. Beyond that, a service club might be encouraged to furnish the site with good lighting and rest rooms.

Of course, the real problem that’s beyond the ability of municipalities to solve is the litigation that exposes them to lawsuits by people badly injured, usually because of a lack of common sense, who retain personal injury law firms that manage to convince judges or juries that the municipalities should be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries and future care.

It remains to be seen whether any municipality’s liability can be reduced by simply posting signs warning “use at you own risk.” In that regard, provincial legislation could go a long way toward righting the situation.

One thing for sure is that it’s far better for our youngsters to be outside tobogganing rather than inside the house spending hours playing video games.

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