The Dubuque City Council passed an ordinance this week restricting public sledding to two areas, Allison-Henderson Park and Bunker Hill Golf Course.
Justin McCarthy told KCRG-TV he wants his young daughters to experience the thrill of sliding down a snow covered hill, but now, he’s more worried about the dangers.
“To me, crowding everybody in a 50,000 person town on to two hills is going to be more of liability if you crowd them — there is more of a chance for people to actually get hurt,” McCarthy said.
The new limitations come after a woman in Boone, Iowa claimed negligence after she hit a concrete cube while sledding on city property. The City of Boone had to pay her more than $12 million.
Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol wants to avoid something similar happening in his city. “What if all those folks got injured? You’re looking at tens-of-millions of dollars in lawsuits. And who pays for that? The citizens of Dubuque,” Buol said. Iowa law protects cities from being responsible if someone gets hurt on city property while biking, skating or skateboarding, but there’s no protection should someone get hurt while sledding.
In 2013, the state legislature discussed a bill that would add sledding to those protections. That bill didn’t pass. “It’s really too bad that we had to do something like this, but the state legislature kind of let cities down,” Buol said. McCarthy is organizing a “sledding ban protest” on Saturday. He also hopes the protest raises awareness about what he calls frivolous lawsuits.
“Growing up, if I were to go down that hill and bust my face on something at the bottom, that was on me. It wasn’t on the city to pay my medical bills,” McCarthy said. The event on Saturday is set for 2-4 p.m. at Dubuque’s Eisenhower Elementary School playground. The group will be sledding and collecting signatures to deliver to state lawmakers.
Eisenhower’s playground is school district property, not city property, thus placing it outside the limits of the sledding ban. Dubuque city leaders say if a police officer catches someone sledding on city property, the officer will give that person a warning. Repeat offenders could face a fine of $750.
(Reporting by Katie Wiedemann, KCRG-TV)