What would it take to make Mooney’s Bay toboggan hill safe? City wants to find out

There’s still no way to make the shuttered toboggan hill at Mooney’s Bay safe for sledding without significant and potentially costly changes, according to a City of Ottawa report asking for $250,000 to study fixes that could include moving large amounts of contaminated soil.The local councillor is supporting the proposed study, but still hopes there might be an easier way to save a beloved but dangerous winter playground.The hill has been off limits to sledders since 2017 following multiple accidents and injuries, but that didn’t stop people from using the popular slope. An 11-year-old girl died there just days after Christmas in 2021, when her toboggan collided with a post.In 2022, River ward Coun. Riley Brockington asked city staff to look at options to physically modify parts of the hill.In a report coming to council’s community services committee next week, staff are now asking for funds to hire an engineer and a landscape architect to study changes and pin down the total cost.Brockington said he sledded there as a child and later took his own children to enjoy the hill. He’s heard clearly from residents that they, too, want to see it open again.”I fully acknowledge that there are risks involved with tobogganing, including at Mooney’s Bay hill,” he said. “I believe with professional guidance, the city can make physical modifications to the site that would lower risks.”Councillor proposes alternativeAccording to the staff report, the engineer and landscape architect would study the feasibility of reducing the height and grade of this hill, potentially by dumping clean fill and removing contaminated soil to level out the slope.The hill is made of construction debris from the 1970s that contains hydrocarbons and metals. According to a study commissioned by the National Capital Commission (NCC) in 2010, disposing of it off-site was quoted to have a liability cost of $10 million back then.Brockington believes modifications are possible, but said the city will need to better understand the costs.”Any recommendation that requires a significant volume of earth and soil to be moved would be quite expensive,” said Brockington.If that’s the case, he thinks there might be a middle ground that could allow safer tobogganing.”Maybe you can construct a toboggan hill on the north face side of Mooney’s Bay Hill and you start kids off at the halfway point,” he proposed. That might involve a physical barrier to prevent sledding from any higher.Tony Tran, a director with the Riverside Park Community Association, said any changes that allow the hill to reopen would be warmly welcomed. He said the community would welcome it opening half way as a possible solution.”We would love for it to be reopened,” Tran said. “If there would be some supervision on site that would be great, even better. We don’t want another accident.”He doesn’t think that banning tobogganing at Mooney’s Bay is feasible.”If we restrict it, kids are still going to find a way to get on the hill, so might as well try to make it safe,” he said.West and northwest slopes preferredOver years of site visits and reviews, city staff have concluded there are no safe sledding routes down the hill, and efforts to buffer hazards with hay bales haven’t been effective.The dangers stem from the hill’s “extremely steep slope” and the hazards around it including trees, poles, parking lots, ski trails and a metal fence surrounding the adjacent Terry Fox Athletic Facility.There simply isn’t enough landing area for the high speeds sledders can achieve on the hill, according to the city.On the north face, a toboggan is capable of reaching 70 km/h in snow or icy conditions before running up against the athletic facility fence. As a result, a consultant previously recommended keeping the north face closed due to the “unacceptable risk of injury.”The same goes for the east face, which runs up against a row of trees and a parking lot access road, while opening the south face would send sledders into trees and gates.City staff still support those conclusions. But they now view the west and northwest faces as more promising, and the report recommends that any efforts to modify the site should focus on those two spots. It includes a graphic showing a concept design with a much shallower western slope.Staff have also looked at ways to reduce the risk of sledders colliding with cross-country skiers at the base of the hill, including by moving the groomed skiing trails or putting an end to the ski school there.The city expects that metal fencing would have to remain to deter sledders from the more dangerous, unmodified slopes.The request to fund the study will need council approval, and Brockington hopes it will yield conclusions that allow councillors to make a final decision on moving forward by the end of this year.Any changes would require NCC approval.Ottawa Morning7:06City staff want to revisit sledding safety at Mooney’s Bay hillThey’re seeking $250,000 in funding to complete a feasibility and design study on the hill.

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