Small Town to Lose Its Only Sledding Hill

Hi Readers — Paxton, a small town in Illinois, where the land is flat as flat can be, is about to lose its only sledding hill to the Abominable Insurance Man. So says Esquire:

…The Paxton Park District’s insurance provider ruled that its sledding hill is too risky. “The insurance would have skyrocketed if someone was hurt,” a parks board member told The Champaign News-Gazette.

Bad as that sounds, here’s the Orwellian worst:

“I can imagine that the first couple of times it snows, they’ll think about the hill and come out and see it’s not there and be disappointed,” the recreation director said, “but I’m hoping within a couple of years it will be forgotten.”

Yes, and let’s hope kids forget that there was ever a time when they could play outside, walk to school, or meet up at the park, while we’re at it. Let’s hope they forget there was ever anything to childhood except Kumon and cat memes. What a glorious future. – L.

Flexible Flyer Sled - Natural (60")

Mom, what the heck is THAT thing for?

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51 Responses to Small Town to Lose Its Only Sledding Hill

  1. Josh S February 25, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    My grandmother lives about 20 minutes from Paxton, and I’ve been through there more times than I can count. This is the middle of farm country, and the land is flat as can be.

    The only other option for anything approaching a sledding hill would be the berms off the side of the highway on- and off-ramps. And that’s away from the park, away from the residential areas, and just all around not a good option.

  2. Earth.W February 25, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    Yep, America is dead and buried. You might as well fly another nation’s flag over your Government buildings for being so stupid. Maybe the military should be invading insurance company board meeting rooms.

  3. Earth.W February 25, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    The fun alternative is for the sled to be tied to the end of a cross country vehicle and have the kids hold on…tight.

  4. Emily February 25, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Well, how is the city going to approach this? Are they going to flatten the hill, barricade it off to make it inaccessible, or simply put up a sign saying “don’t sled?” If it’s the latter, then there’s really nothing stopping anyone who wants to sled, like they’ve always done before. I can imagine the rule being ignored by so many people, that it just dies a natural death, so nobody has to stop sledding.

  5. Christina February 25, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    Pretty sure Mt. Trashmore in Evanston, IL has signs saying “Don’t Sled” or some such thing. Couldn’t say for sure – we’re usually going too fast on our sleds to read them 😉

  6. Robin Stevenson February 25, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    Wow. That is so sad. We live in Victoria BC and rarely get snow… A couple of years ago my then-six year old was dying to go tobogganing (think of the Calvin and Hobbes comics where Calvin sits on his sled, on the grass, cursing the blue sky above) and somehow convinced me that tobogganing down the carpeted stairs of our house would be a good idea. Ouch. Kid was fine; my tailbone, not so much. Don’t tell anyone though; I don’t want my only staircase taken away.

  7. Cyn February 25, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    Our town in Illinois voted to do that last spring. Guess what? Kids still showed up to sled this year! 😀

  8. pentamom February 25, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    Assuming the use of this hill for sledding doesn’t involve blocking off a street or something, how is the town going to make it go away, unless, as someone suggested, they bulldoze the thing?

    The very idea that the town thinks that because part of one of their parks has a slope on it, they can “make it” or “not make it” a sledding hill is the underlying problem here. People need to show up on sleds and slide down the hill because there’s a hill there, that’s all.

  9. Highwayman February 25, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    The picture of the sled that Lenore put on this blog is made of wood and metal. Ohhhhhhhh! The Horrors! Ohhhhhhhhhh! Ohhhhhhh! Splinters & Tetanus!!!!! Ohhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! Ohhhhhhhhhhhh!

    This post I dedicate to Sam Kinison.

  10. mattEdmondsWolf February 25, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    I am from a fair size city just a few miles north of Seattle, like with Robin in BC it doesn’t snow here all that much. That said, we did get about 1.5 – 2 ft of snow here the winter of 1996. Being the young’un I was then it was good fun sledding down the few hills we have here and somehow I can’t see the city I am in being so stupid as to kill sledding city wide.

  11. Puzzled February 25, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    Maybe they’ll arrest the kids who sled? The worst part of that is that there will be a brief flurry of comments about it, then people will lose interest and ability to care. In a few years, they’ll be saying “well, of course we arrest those kids, they could increase our taxes.”

  12. craigp February 25, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    how do you close a sledding hill. theres a hill, there is snow….now its a sledding hill.

  13. WendyW February 25, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    They’ll post a sign, everyone will ignore it, and if someone gets hurt the city’s insurance carrier can deny liability due to the “rules” not being followed. All parties are satisfied.

  14. John February 26, 2013 at 12:24 am #

    I guess the reason the insurance will skyrocket if a kid gets hurt is because of America’s belief that kids are made out of porcelain and balsa wood and ANY damage to that type of material no matter how minuscule will be permanent and the kid will be scarred for life.

  15. Peter February 26, 2013 at 3:13 am #

    @WendyW, if that was all their was to it, that’d be great. The problem is, the injured party will of course claim that the city was not doing enough to keep children safe. A hill like that is an “attractive nuisance” and it needs to have giant walls to keep people away from it, not just little signs.

    Think construction sites and swimming pools. Similar principle.

  16. hineata February 26, 2013 at 4:01 am #

    @Earth W – best advice yet! And there must be the odd horse or cow around somewhere to hitch the sled to, if the car is too boring…:-)

    Or alternatively, they could hitch it to a few insurance company execs….and get something useful out of them.

  17. Paula February 26, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    Some have asked, how are they going to make the hill go away? That’s just what they did in my hometown YEARS before “safe parenting” got out of hand (sometime in the late 70s!). Our beloved Sand Hill park sledding hill with accompanying skating rink and warming house still has the name, but not the hill. Some well-meaning parent, who shall remain nameless, alerted the town council to the insurance risks, not to mention the lack of safety, involved with kids playing outdoors, breathing fresh air, getting unplanned exercise and experiencing the joy of gravity-induced speed, for which no fossil fuels or electricity had to be consumed. They bull-dozed the hill and no one came just to skate anymore, so the community of winter sport lovers evaporated as well. But I and my friends and everyone else that grows up there now is really safe. Thanks, Mrs. X. Sure glad your family had enough money to send your kids on skiing and winter fun trips.

  18. Silver Fang February 26, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    We used to have seesaws, merrygorounds and sledding in an America that no longer exists.

  19. lollipoplover February 26, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    “What happened to the America where a snowy sledding hill wasn’t a municipal insurance problem?”

    When did we collectively decide that an activity (like sledding) is more dangerous to our children than say, driving everywhere and childhood obesity? So is the town of Paxton going to set up an indoor youth center with Wii Sledding for the kids? It’s just a matter of time before children are banned from the outdoors. This is so sad.

  20. Paul February 26, 2013 at 9:16 am #


  21. thinkbannedthoughts February 26, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Sad making. I think I’ll file this one under “You might be living in a dystopia if…”

  22. Taradlion February 26, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Maybe they could send their kids over to Newton, Masssachusetts, where the parents demanded a fence be put up around a large pile of snow created by clearing the streets from the last blizzard…the kids could climb it and get hurt! It was all over the news in Massachusetts.

    When I grew up in (in MA) we went sledding down a wicked hill furring RECESS, even after one child broke his leg -nothing changed. I brought my kids to sled there on a visit to Grandma’s and they loved it.

    So, so sad.

  23. Brian February 26, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    Sledding in my NJ town during our recent snow fall brought the biggest smile to my face. For a brief moment, there were no uniforms, equipment, refs, committees, RSVPs, tickets, Astroturf or sponsors. It was just kids and families playing and what shone through was what a community should be: neighbors in a village enjoying their public park as neighbors.

    We arrived around 10:30 on Saturday and there were already nearly a hundred kids sledding. Kids of all ages were represented from babies in snow suits to high school kids who drove themselves. Parents were chatting, kids were squealing and everyone had a grin plastered to his/her face.

    People worked together to build snow piles as jumps which kids lined up to rocket down. The kids figured out an order themselves and there were paths to walk and paths to sled. Bigger kids flew down from the higher hill in established highways. Little kids bumped down the hill with parents or bravely by themselves.

    Kids fell and the adults nearby helped lift them back to their feet. You never wanted for a push down the hill as there were ready hands to help. People left bags and waters and sleds as they made their runs knowing that no one was there to do harm. Cars got stuck in the parking lot and strangers helped push them out. A group of high school kids politely wandered between groups of adults asking for the driver who blocked them in the lot.

    It was the definition of a community. I couldnt stop smiling for 3 days afterwards.

  24. CrazyCatLady February 26, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    Lets pull our sleds behind the 4 wheeler, snowmobile or 4WD truck! That approximates the downhill experience and is so much MORE safe!

  25. Dave February 26, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Why do insurance companies get to call the shots? I did slay ride down the side of the hill on the ramps to the parkway near my home on Long Island. No one questioned the safety of what we were doing and no one was ever hurt. Insurance companies want to collect money and never pay out. How can we force their hands to do the right thing for our children and not the totally safe thing?

  26. mollie February 26, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    I think it’s snowed enough for sledding about three or four times in the last eight years, but we’ve got a killer hill, called Beacon Hill, and what a joy it’s been to see the community gather there to have some fun.

    It’s possible to get going fast and long enough to end up in the busy-ish road, but no one seems to fret about it. There are no signs posted that either forbid or condone sledding… it just happens when it happens.

    I can understand posting signs about thin ice or unsupervised swimming, but sledding? My hill growing up was in the woods… I can’t imagine the municipality knew about it, and we ran into trees all the time. I broke my ankle that way, but then again, I was a complete klutz.

  27. Backroadsem February 26, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    From the article I got the impression they will literally be getting rid of the hill–they are removing trees and dirt.

    It’s only salt in the wound this comes with winter still about.

  28. Paul February 26, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    Kind of weird coinidence, amazon is having a 40% off sleds today.

  29. Mike C February 26, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    Who’s stupid enough to have had someone sell them insurance for a sledding hill to begin with? I don’t even think a sledding hill needs a “Use at Your Own Risk” sign.

  30. squishymama February 26, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    @ Christina. You are absolutely right. Mt. Trashmore has WARNING signs on both sides of the three hills. I know this because I was there last Sunday with my two kids and about 100 other people, completely ignoring them.

  31. AW13 February 26, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    We took our kid sledding on the same hill I grew up sledding on. It was just as much fun as I remembered! That was on a weekday afternoon, just after our snow storm last week. The next day was Saturday and the hill was PACKED with kids sledding. We’re in the midst of a blizzard now, but I imagine that as soon as kids can get out of the house, they’ll be back on the hill. I am so pleased to live in Iowa right now!

  32. Emily February 26, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    Maybe someone should start selling beds with a warning label that says “Get up at your own risk.”

  33. bmj2k February 26, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    Why sue the town if you get hurt sledding on the hill? Take planet Earth to court. It was Earth’s plate techtonics that caused hills and mountains, I say sue the planet.

    Makes as much sense as the real story does.

  34. mattEdmondsWolf February 26, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

    @bmj2k – shhh, some lawyer may actually get the idea to try it. More than likely any judge in his or her right mind would laugh the lawyer out of court, but I supposed it is possible to sue and win in front of the right judge.

  35. Caleb February 26, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

    Do these insurance people ever think about the harm such so-called “safety” causes?

    I just discovered this site, and it was such a relief seeing I wasn’t alone, when I saw the danger in denying children childhood because childhood is “dangerous.”

    How about giving birth? I was present when my wife gave birth, and that sure did seem dangerous to me. But also beautiful.

    I wonder what the “Abominable Insurance Man” would say about giving birth. “Tsk tsk. Too risky.”

    The answer to him would be, of course, rude. “Yes, there is risk, but the risk is that the person born might be an Abominable Insurance Man.”

    Besides this site, I recently discovered “The Last Child In The Woods,” which discusses how much our kids need to be outside. The writer even talks of “Nature Deficit Disorder.” Whew! What a relief! Again I felt I wasn’t alone.

    I run a childcare on a farm, and attempt to get children outside on dangerous hills on dangerous sleds. I’m getting old and short tempered and, I fear, at times rude. The Abominable Insurance Man is only one of a number of people I’d like to…..(deleted.)

    To blow off steam I write a blog which is somewhat rude, and sometimes I deserve rebuke for being rude. However sometimes I am rude in a way that people enjoy. (I wrote something called “Osha Snow” which people here seemed to like.)

    However this past Monday was a morning with every twig covered in fluffy snow, and the world was so lovely even I couldn’t crab. The children at my childcare were seemingly enchanted by the beauty, and it was one of those very rare days where they hardly fussed at all, and got huge enjoyment out of things even the Abominable Insurance Man would have a hard time seeing danger in, such as making paths in the snow.

    Later they did roll snowballs, and one got large. I could almost hear the Abominable Insurance Man shreiking as he wrung his hands, “What if someone gets crushed under that snowball!”

    Fortunately he didn’t show up, just then, and I enjoyed a Monday. I did not think it was possible to enjoy a Monday, but it happened.

    Oddly, while it is easy to write about things that make you mad, it is really hard to write about what doesn’t.

    However I did my best, with a rare non-crabby post called, “The Colors Of Snow:”

  36. CrazyCatLady February 26, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

    Caleb, shh! About child birth, any how. When my mom was pregnant with my 18 years younger sister, she ended up going to a hospital twice as far away as the local one.

    The local one stopped serving women on state insurance because they felt that they got sued too often. The hospital also had the highest c-section rate in the country – close to 75% because it was “safer.” At that time, and in the decade following, I didn’t know of one woman who had a natural vaginal birth. I guess they did happen, but I sure didn’t see them.

  37. Christina February 27, 2013 at 12:00 am #

    @squishymama – It’s a bit of a trek from Logan Square, but so worth it! My boys are completely enraptured with the “big hill”.

  38. Robin February 27, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    This reminds me of “The Giver”. No hills to hurt you, no colors to make anything unique, just safe and placid uniformity, bah humbug!

  39. Mike C February 27, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    I wonder what that town council would have thought about this two-year-old on skiis?

  40. Captain America February 27, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    YOU KNOW, perhaps one reason hills and broken legs seem like such HUGE dangers these days is because we simply have less MARGIN in our lives. . . less flexible time as families to handle things as they come up.

    When both parents are working and when neighborhoods have few kids (what’s the average family size these days), then kid’s activities take a hit.

  41. Emily February 27, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    @Captain America–I don’t think people have less time for kids’ activities, because they still have time to drive little Jimmy and Susie to peewee soccer on Mondays, gymnastics on Tuesdays, swimming on Wednesdays, music lessons on Thursdays, martial arts on Fridays, Scouts on Saturdays, and youth group on Sundays, and then repeat that whole schedule the following week. No, I think people have less time for unstructured activities, because the structured activites, which can be tracked and measured for the all-important college and university applications for the long run, are considered more important than letting kids be kids for the short run, and, in doing so, learn self-reliance and problem-solving skills for the VERY long run….but people don’t see that, because they look at a group of kids running around in the forest playing hide and seek or manhunt, versus the group of kids in Little League uniforms playing an organized game of baseball in the diamond in the adjoining park, and automatically think that the kids in the forest are “aimless,” while the Little Leaguers are doing something constructive–even if some of the Little Leaguers would rather not be playing baseball, and might even wish they could join the fun in the forest instead….but their parents make them play Little League, because universities don’t give out scholarships for hide and seek or manhunt, but some universities do give scholarships for baseball. However, if I were ever to get lost in the forest, I think I’d rather be with one of the kids who grew up playing in the woods, than one of the kids who grew up being shuttled in a minivan from one organized activity to another.

    Now, I’m not saying that all organized activities are bad, and I actually teach clarinet lessons from time to time, when I can get students, so maybe I’m even part of the problem, but I’ve never encouraged any student of mine to put music before living a balanced life, and I actually encouraged one of them to take up a fitness activity of his choice, in addition to music, in order to help his breathing and posture, but I didn’t suggest organized sports; I suggested things like jogging, biking, swimming, or some kind of independent cardio activity for the breathing, and yoga for posture. All of these activities can be done alone, with others, organized, or not.

  42. lollipoplover February 27, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    @Caleb- in the book “Fifty Dangerous Things (you should let your children do)”, Gever Tully asks:
    How do we build competence in children? We do it by giving children opportunities to distinguish that which is truly dangerous from what merely contains an element of risk; we introduce them to risk through measured, supervised exposure; we teach them how to explore safely, and set them on a path to exploring on their own.
    Every minute of our life contains an element of risk. To remove every sledding hill and bump teaches nothing and reaps no reward.

  43. Donna February 27, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    @ Emily – I don’t think that is what Captain America means. Most parents are already taxed to the limit with 2 jobs, their own commitments, and their children’s commitments. A chink in their barely-held-together schedule is a major stressor. And a kid is not going to break his leg one day and be back to his usual activities the next. It is going to require time out of work and a limit to family activities.

    On top of that, we are a very mobile society with many people living far away from their family ties. Since most families are two working parent families, people are only home evenings and weekends now and there isn’t the community that was built around a neighborhood of stay-at-home moms socializing together anymore. So many parents have to do it all on their own. Unlike when I was a kid and my working mother had grandma 15 minutes away to look after me, if my kid were to break her leg and need to be out of school for a week, I have to take a week off work. Me taking a week off work means that I have 2 weeks of work to do when I get back which means longer hours and so on …

  44. Daniel February 28, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    Naturally, the spoilsports at the AAP have already weighed in: sledding is bad for you!,-Injuries-During-Winter-Months.aspx

    Snow is one of my favorite things; even as a grown-up, I will run up the hill several times just to see if I can slide down even faster. I want my kids to have that chance too.

  45. Nancy February 28, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    Milwaukee had a similar incident. A mom of a boy who had a head injury wanted the city to make a hill in one of the parks safer by removing all the trees and using safety measures like fencing and haybales. The park responded by saying a) it’s a park, and there are trees b) there are risks inherent in sledding…. you need to work with your kids to mitigate these risks (like teaching them that if you’re going for a tree, bail, because a broken arm is better than a head/spine injury any day, or wearing helmets), and c) those “safety” measures become more dangerous than the trees. What do you think happens to haybales that have been sitting in snow and then it freezes? And kids get caught in the fencing all the time.

    I’m tired of the idea that everything needs to be risk free. No. You need to teach your kids about risk, and what risks are smart and what risks are dumb. Doing most stuff involving a hill and snow without a helmet? Dumb. Sending your three year old down a huge hill by themselves? Dumb. Teaching your kid ways to critically think about risks and safety? Smart.

  46. Emily March 1, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    @Donna–I re-read your post, and Captain America’s post, and I think I understand now–some people overschedule their kids to keep them “safe” while they’re doing the double-income thing out of necessity, because life just costs more now. Part of that is because the standard of living has gone up (houses have gotten bigger, for example), but more of it is from inflation. So, I get it–a lot of people don’t see unscheduled time as an option, at least not during the week.

    However, you brought up another point–if even the tiniest glitch in the schedule (for example, a child falling off the monkey bars and breaking a leg/foot/whatever) can throw things off, and cause parents to miss work, siblings to miss other activities, etc., then no degree of overzealous safety rules and security procedures, supervised activities, and “dumbing down” playgrounds will prevent that from happening, because people still get sick, and traffic still gets backed up, cars still break down, miscommunication still happens, etc. So, if there’s no free time built into the schedule, then it means that, when something goes wrong, there’s a 100% chance that someone is going to miss something–school, work, Little League, Brownies, whatever. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, when people overschedule their kids with supervised activities (and, by extension, themselves DRIVING their kids to said activities), and don’t allow any unstructured time, then they’re holding themselves to an unrealistic standard, because the world isn’t perfect.

  47. jdgalt March 6, 2013 at 11:46 pm #

    When’s opening day of lawyer season? ;-D

  48. David Smith March 7, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    Insurance: Lawyers selling protection from lawyers.

  49. Kent Allard March 7, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    At one point in time, suits against the municipality for tort liability weren’t permitted. Does the town here really need insurance?

  50. rmark March 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    Just chain an old car hood to the back of a pickup truck and take the kids sledding on the snow covered streets.


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