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Ottawa to spend $150,000 to study making Mooney's Bay safe for sledding

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The City of Ottawa will spend $150,000 to study options to make Mooney's Bay a sledding destination, but staff warn the cost to make the popular hill safe will be high.

Councillors on the community services committee voted to fund an external engineering and landscaping feasibility analysis to determine what could be done to make the hill safe.

Staff initially recommended spending up to $250,000 to complete the design study of the tobogganing hill, but councillors voted to spend a lesser amount on the study.

The Mooney's Bay hill has been closed to sledding since the winter of 2017. In 2021, a young girl died in hospital after her sled slammed into a pole at the bottom of the hill.

Each winter, the city installs temporary fencing on the hill to prevent sledding at Mooney's Bay

Councillors were told the hill at Mooney's Bay is man-made, and was initially built in the early 1970s as a junior ski hill.

"Our conclusion is that this is a very steep hill and that some of the options and program-related measures that we've contemplated in the past are not effective at keeping people safe at that site," Dan Chenier, general manager of Parks and Recreation, told councillors.

Chenier notes the city has attempted to use extra signage to warn people about the dangers of sledding, but the signs have been ignored.

"The challenge we have now is we have a very steep hill with no obvious solution to us, to date. What we believe is in order to give good consideration to a possible solution is that outside expertise is required," Chenier said.

"This is not a usual practice to try to fix a hill, but we do recognize that Mooney's hill is a very popular site, there is community pressure to see if we can bring something back."

While some people have suggested allowing tobogganing only halfway up the hill, Chenier notes the hill is still very steep.

"I think there is the opportunity to just take the first step, which is to see if outside expertise can find a concept that works for us and a general idea of what it would look like and what it could cost, and take that information and bring it back to you so that you can decide then if it is an acceptable idea and if the costs are reasonable," Chenier said.

Coun. Riley Brockington says before a final decision is made to keep Mooney's Bay hill closed for sledding, the city needs to explore all options.

"This is a public facility; we've allowed tobogganing for quite some time," Brockington said. "Before a final decision is made, I think we need to do what we can to see if there's any other way to make it safer."

The study will look at possible ways to make the hill safe for sledding in the future, including possible modifications to the hill. A report will be presented to the committee at a later date.

"The upfront and eventual costs to do the things that are likely required… will be a lot."

The City of Ottawa says there are three tobogganing hills near Mooney's Bay.

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