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City staff seeking additional funds to make Mooney's Bay hill safe for sledding

Families visit the toboggan hill at Mooney's Bay Park. Dec. 27, 2021. (Shaun Vardon/CTV News Ottawa) Families visit the toboggan hill at Mooney's Bay Park. Dec. 27, 2021. (Shaun Vardon/CTV News Ottawa)
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City of Ottawa staff are seeking additional financial resources to complete a design study of a hill in Mooney's Bay Park popular with tobogganers that has been deemed unsafe for winter use.

The hill has been closed to sledding since the winter of 2017 after a number of reports of injuries, collisions and near crashes. Despite being closed for winter use and being removed from the city's designated sledding hills, many residents continued to use the hill.

An empty sled was left on Mooney's Bay Hill on the first day of a City of Ottawa ban on sledding at the popular hill. (Jeremie Charron/CTV News Ottawa)

On Dec. 27, 2021, a young girl who was tobogganing with her family died in hospital after the sled she was on slammed into a pole at the bottom of the hill.

Following the incident, city staff installed barricades, padding for trees and signage at the hill, and performed a review of the Mooney's Bay sledding area.

At a city council meeting in December 2022, Coun. Riley Brockington brought forward a motion asking staff to develop options to physically modify the north-facing side of the hill and make the hill sufficiently safe to reopen for sledding. Staff were asked to provide possible recommendations back to councillors by end of 2023.

The recommendations from staff, which will be tabled at next week's city community services committee meeting, include $250,000 of additional cash for external engineering and a landscape feasibility analysis to determine what work could be done, if any, to make the hill safe.

A municipal risk assessment after the accident found that no area of the hill was safe for tobogganing.

"Staff concluded that there were no mitigating measures that could be implemented to make the hill and landing areas reasonably safe for sledding without undertaking significant costly modifications to the hill and landing areas including undesirable environmental impacts such as tree removal and potentially excavation of encapsulated contaminated soils," staff say in the report.

The report says reviews of the hill have been performed by staff in recent years, including the hiring of an external consultant to look at redesign options. It recommends that further professional services to determine what design solutions are available.

It's unclear yet how much a full-scale redesign of the hill would cost the city.

"A professional design that proposes an appropriate modified slope, the location and specific design of a new launching ledge on the hill face, an exact or best location for a sledding area on the hill with the required landing area safety modification (i.e. tree / barrier removal) and recommendations for supplemental permanent and/or temporary site amenities to effectively limit sledding to a designated location on the hill is required," the report said.

Historical data on the use of the site for sledding by staff and the external consultant identified a number of challenges relating to the hill, including the speed created by the height and slope of the hill and collision hazards surrounding the site from trees or cross-country skiers.

The consultant noted that during fast snow or icy conditions, a toboggan could reach speeds of up to 70 km/h on the hill, creating "unacceptable risks of injury." A 2016 Parks Department Report noted that numerous injuries occurred when tobogganers collided with the fence along the bleachers of the Terry Fox Athletic Facility.

In the meantime, staff are recommending that temporary fencing remain around the hill during the winter until the safety issues are resolved.

A "Hill Closed" sign at Mooney's Bay Park on Monday, Dec. 27. (Aaron Reid/CTV News Ottawa)

The matter will be discussed at the April 23 meeting of the city's community services committee.

All changes to any aspect to the hill would need approval by the National Capital Commission (NCC). It may also require approval by Parks Canada and the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority because of its proximity to the Rideau River.

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Ted Raymond

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