Sledding Is No Longer a Cheap Winter Activity in Some Cities

Concerns about lawsuits and liability drive cities across the country to ban sledding on city property.

Sledding Is No Longer a Cheap Winter Activity in Some Cities Photo (cc) by Michael Bentley

Some U.S. cities have banned sledding in city parks, and ignoring the ban could get you a hefty fine. So much for including snow sledding in a list of free and fun winter activities if you live in these towns.

Why have they done it? To avoid injuries and the resulting expensive liability claims, The Associated Press explains.

Dubuque, Iowa, is the latest city to ban sledding on its property. It now allows sledders in just two of its 50 parks. People caught sledding in a restricted city park will receive a warning the first time, but repeat offenders could be fined up to $750, KCRG-TV reports.

In a 6-1 vote, the Dubuque City Council decided that allowing sledding on city property is not a risk worth taking. KCRG-TV said:

Iowa law protects cities from liability in the event someone gets hurt on city property while biking, skating or skateboarding. But there’s no protection if someone gets hurt while sledding. Some lawmakers attempted to fix that during the 2013 legislative session, but the bill failed.

Dubuque council member Karla Braig told KCRG-TV:

“The city is open to so much liability because we live in such a litigious society. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have to worry about this.”

Other municipalities have moved to restrict sledding, the AP said.

Some cities have opted for less drastic measures in the last several years rather than an all-out ban, including Des Moines, Iowa; Montville, N.J.; Lincoln, Neb.; and Columbia City, Ind. By banning sledding on certain slopes or posting signs warning people to sled at their own risk, cities lessen their liability if someone is seriously hurt, but they’re still more vulnerable to lawsuits than if they had adopted an outright ban.

There’s no question sledding can be risky. According to NPR, the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that more than 20,000 children end up at the hospital each year after an accident on a sledding hill. Ouch.

But, as NBC reports, that’s small beans compared with the 275,000 nonfatal bike injuries kids suffer each year, as well as the 82,000 trampoline injuries and 61,000 skateboarding injuries.

Click here for sledding safety tips.

In my town, even with temperatures hovering around 6 degrees, kids (and some adults) have bundled up, grabbed their sleds, and headed out to a few popular sledding hills, most of which are owned by the city. What’s winter without joyful children careening down a park’s snow-covered hillside, screaming with delight?

I guess some kids in Dubuque will have to settle for sledding in their backyards.

What do you think about the sledding bans? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

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