Health

Mooney’s Bay hill: Robust fencing, and other recommendations approved following fatal toboggan crash

Publishing date:

Nov 26, 2022  •  5 hours ago  •  3 minute read

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File: Cross-country skiing was still permitted but tobogganing was banned from the hill in Mooney’s Bay Park. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia Starting this winter, the City of Ottawa will install “robust temporary seasonal fencing” to deter sledding at Mooney’s Bay Park.

The measure was one of 10 recommendations issued after a number of reviews following the death of an 11-year-old girl last year.

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On Dec. 27, 2021, Josée Abi Assal, whose family had moved to Canada that summer, eagerly went with family and friends for their first sledding experience.

According to reports at the time, the sled she was on crashed into a pole. She was pronounced dead at CHEO.

The long hill at Mooney’s Bay was first approved as a municipal sledding site in 2007.

But, in 2017, after inspections that followed many accidents and injuries, the hill was officially closed to tobogganing.

“It was closed as a sledding hill in 2017 due to hazards on-site, including trees, the Rideau River, the Terry Fox Athletic Facility, a parking lot and other obstacles (such as cross-country skiers using the nearby trail),” the city said in a release at the time.

A sign at the top warns of “Extreme Danger” that could result in serious injury or death.

The sign apparently reduced, but did not eliminate usage.

In the summer of 2021, before the girl’s death, a municipal review panel could not find ways to improve safety.

After the child’s death, the city installed barricades, padding for trees and signage and upped its safety messaging online and on site. Bylaw officers were deployed to the site to dissuade people from sledding.

But in January, an external consultant reported that, due to the steepness of the hill and the hazards at the bottom, no part of the hill “offers an acceptable level of risk for sledding use.”

Subsequently, a comprehensive review was conducted by the city, which ended with the 10 recommendations being made.

The regional coroner conducted a review and made five recommendations.

In a release dated Friday, the city said all recommendations had been or were in the process of being adopted before the start of sledding season. The one exception was a recommendation to amend the city’s Parks and Facilities By-law, which requires council approval for that move to go before council.

The 10 recommendations:

• Issue “No Sledding Advisory” during periods of inclement weather

• Amend the Parks and Facilities By-law, permitting sledding only in designated areas of municipal parks

• Develop standardized protective measure equipment, products and materials for enhancing safety

• Undertake an annual review and refresh of sledding hill information on GeoOttawa and Ottawa.ca

• Implement comprehensive protective measures at unapproved hills where sledding is known to occur

• Conduct annual inspections for all approved hills

• Create a descriptor system for sledding hills on Ottawa.ca that indicates caliber of the hill and provides observations on conditions and perils to be updated following annual inspections

• Install robust temporary seasonal fencing at Mooney’s Bay hill to discourage sledding

• Partner with Ottawa Public Health to create an annual safe sledding marketing campaign

• Deploy helmet use signs at all approved sledding hill locations

Staff will be monitoring the effectiveness of the recommendations over the winter.

An evaluation will be carried out at the end of the season to determine if further improvements can be made to the municipal sliding site program.

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