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Sledders can't let safety slide

January 6, 2013

CUMBERLAND — Kids and young adults love to see snow falling during the winter because it can result in lots of fun on local sledding runs.
But as the sledding tragedy in Providence showed all too clearly last Wednesday, sledding in the wrong spot or in icy conditions can be very dangerous and even result in fatal injury.
The sledding accident at Neutaconkanut Hill Park in Providence that claimed the life of Alexandria Alvarez, 17, sparked safety reviews of many popular sledding spots around the state and the closing of the Neutaconkanut Hill at least until surface conditions improve.
Mayor Daniel McKee had the Providence tragedy in mind on Friday
when he urged local residents to use caution while visiting the popular sledding and tubing spot at Diamond Hill Park this winter.
Town-owned park and former state ski area has hosted sledding on its former beginners’ slope for years but also posts signs noting “it is sledding at your own risk,” McKee said.
“We do know we make a lot a of rescue calls there,” the Mayor said while pointing out minor injuries and even incidents involving broken bones have occurred at the location in the past.
The sledding area is wide open and does not feature the risk of striking trees that other areas might hold, but McKee said people using the spot do need to think about safety first.
“It is lots of fun but you have to be careful,” McKee said. The town’s posting of the potential risks of sledding is a visible warning but McKee said people using the area need to also take proper precautions to ensure their safety just as they would if they were out on a ski run or ice skating.
“You can sprain an ankle on the basketball court and you can take a spill on the hill while sledding,” he said. “It is fun up there, but while people are having fun up there they have to be cautious,” he added. McKee recommended that parents always supervise children using the slopes and make sure they visit only when conditions are proper for safe sledding.
The town does have some first aid equipment available at its Parks and Recreation Headquarters at Diamond Hill and McKee said town rescue personnel have experience in responding to the park for accidents that occur during recreational activities there throughout the year.
The fact the site is popular during the winter months for activities like sledding and tubing has the town also reviewing options for expanding its use in that season, McKee noted. One option might be collecting a tubing fee for a snow tubing run like the one at the Yawgoo Valley Ski Area and Sports Park in Exeter, he said.
There other popular sledding sites in town like the hill at the Mercy Mount School, but just like Diamond Hill, McKee said people should be cognizant of the risks no matter where they take their sleds or tubes.
“People need to be aware of the risks and they need to use caution,” McKee said.
Lincoln Police Chief Brian Sullivan had similar advice for the residents of his community when asked about the town’s policies on outdoor winter activities on Friday.
The hill behind Lincoln High School has been a popular spot for sledding in the past and the town’s recreation department has even installed hay bales at certain locations to minimize the risks.
But like McKee, Sullivan said parents with children and older sledders should take the proper precautions to ensure their safety when out on the snow.
“You should go to areas that are wide open and also make sure you have some kind of control of your sled,” he said. It might also be a good idea to wear head protection just like someone snowboarding or skiing, he suggested.
“You should always stay away from areas that are not open or conditions that are unsafe,” Sullivan said.

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