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No Snowplay

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Banning Winter Sledding?

By James Donahue

It seems that lawyers and insurance companies are controlling our lives more and more every day. The latest attack appears to be against the childhood joy of sledding down snow-capped hills. City councils are voting to ban sledding in city parks due to liabilities in the event of injuries.

It seems that children are getting seriously hurt when they slam their sleds into trees and other obstacles while zipping at high speed down those steep hills. They like the steeper hills because they get the most speed, and of course there is always the thrill of the danger involved. Children possess a sense of invincibility. They don’t think they will be hurt.

I remember during my childhood that we had several good hills to sled on. One was at a local golf course where the hills were steep, open and the only obstacle was a small stream bed awaiting sleds that carried us too far on a ride. The only threat there was dropping through some ice into a couple of inches of water but that wasn’t a life threatening danger.

Then there was Mendowski’s Hill, a narrow strip of mowed lawn that offered a fantastic ride, but carried our sleds dangerously close to a wood filled with good sized trees. We rode our sleds down that hill, and some of us hit those trees. I remember kids going home with bloody noses and black eyes. But in those days nobody ever thought of hiring a lawyer and suing the Mendowski family. Most of the time the owners never knew we were sliding on their hill.

When we had some heavy ice storms there were a few streets in our town that offered great hills for sledding. And when there was ice, our sleds carried us on the best thrill ride of them all. I remember once making a running start for a belly landing on my sled, only to have the sled unexpectedly stop dead under me the moment it hit the ice. The rope dropped under the runner. The sled stopped and I kept going. I landed on my face and went home with a bloody nose and a few other bruises. The thought of suing the city for my own stupid stunt never crossed anybody’s mind.

The last time I recall sharing the joy of sledding was one winter when we lived in Kalamazoo. Our children were all young and looking for a good place to sled. My wife and I took them to the local elementary school where there was a perfect hill. We all had a fun afternoon sledding on that hill.

It was not against the law in those days. Nobody ever thought it would come to that.