Feed on

One of my favorite places in western NY happens to be right by my home – Mendon Ponds Park. I especially love to cross-country ski, snowshoe, and ice-skate there in the winter.

In any case, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find places to sled in Monroe County anymore. This is rather startling since the county is brimming with terrific public parks and its geology is perfect for the kinds of sledding that folks love to do. Almost every country park here has wide and vast slopes that just scream out for kids to spend entire days there sledding and tubing and messing around.

Until now of course. We were hiking at Mendon last week, and at Ellison park a few weeks ago and also walking around some of the local high schools that also have great sledding hills on them, and posted on hills in every location for all to see is, “Warning: Absolutely No Sledding is Permitted Here.” And the notice is from Monroe County Parks. I don’t have pictures but I’ll take my camera the next time I go out there and post the images for your enjoyment.

That’s simply incredible, it really is. Of all of the things Monroe County is spending its time on, telling us not to sled on spectacularly great hills is, needless to say, totally absurd. It’s at this point that I’d normally launch into a tirade on the ridiculous nanny-state paternalists all around us and perhaps bring up points like this. Not today. Today, I want to go on a tirade on you. That’s right. You. Not the government.

You are the reason for this suckage. Now, I imagine I can find a way to tie this all into government somehow, but that is not the point. Why are you the reason for this suckage? Because too many people can’t handle individual responsibility. Too many people cannot handle their own freedom. And you suck because of that.

Here we are, after two feet of fresh snow has blanketed the pastoral landscape of western, NY. Snow boots on, hats and gloves on snug, a clean hill of pure joy laid out before us for hundreds of yards in all directions, sled underfoot – and the Monroe County sheriff comes by to relocate us. And it’s all because you suck. I am sure someone in the past few years bumped their head while sledding. I am sure that some people crashed into one another while sledding at some point in the past few years. After all, on the best snow days dozens and dozens of families get the same excited feeling we do and head for the same hills. Indeed, part of the ritual of sledding that is important is learning how to respect the actions of others – not wallowing on the ground at the bottom, dragging your sled up along the side of the path, not aiming for people with your sled, and having a good laugh when you wipe out. And I am sure someone had the brilliant idea of suing the county or suing another sledder for some accident that may have occurred in the past.

So Monroe County (in my charitable interpretation) is not necessarily telling me what’s good for me, and telling me that I cannot make decisions about risk, thrill and safety for myself and my children – what they are telling me is that few of my neighbors are capable of making those decisions without imposing massive costs on the county and indeed me. This is perhaps a liability issue.

And you know what? That sucks. If I were running Monroe County, I could see why I too might want to make the same rules (they do allow sledding now only in a few designated areas), but where is real leadership when we need it? Where are citizens of influence and policymakers leading the charge to remind people that individual responsibility is important, is to be cherished, and is a valued part of living in a decent society? Where are the policymakers to put an end to the litigousness that perhaps has led to this outcome? Why can’t Monroe County make it clear (pass a law?) that “buyer beware” when people are out on a sledding hill on public property? Are people really too stupid to handle that?

So sure, we have this asinine park paternalism to deal with, but I offer up the very likely possibility that the park planners are not the asinine ones – we all are, and that sucks. And it sucks living among folks who are like that.

OK, rant over, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

6 Responses to “Sledding and Liberty”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    1. Great sentiments.
    2. Cute kids.
    3. We struggle w. the same no sledding nonsense every year, frustrating.

  2. Trapper_John says:

    Isn’t this people responding to incentives? If I (or my child) have a sledding accident on public property, everyone else is better off if I don’t sue the county. I, however, am better off if I do sue (smells like a prisoner’s dilemma). Now, this assumes a set of values, but it’s hard to imagine that in all the sledding accidents no one would be looking to either a) make money or b) think that somebody owes them. I believe you’re railing against b) in your article (rightly so), but doesn’t a) speak to more systemic issues? Engaging in voluntary, risky activities should not allow you to profit when the risk is realized and bites you in the ass.

  3. Rod says:

    Our back pasture used to be the best sledding hill for the residents of Belleville, a little unincorporated village near our farm. Once, my brother and I went up there with our sleds and some of the junior hoodlums told us that they were in charge of letting kids sled there, and that we were not welcome there. That’s when we told the retarded hoodlums it was our back pasture, and be careful where you step.

    Anyway, the principle at work there was “this land is your land, this land is my land.” It didn’t cross the village people’s minds that they should even ask if it’s okay to sled there. Lucky for our family, none of them got hurt or contacted Jacoby and Meyers for Quick Cash.

    Public parks are another thing, of course. Sledding hills, like ski areas, are a target of the plaintiff’s bar. I wouldn’t be surprised if lawyers, on their days off, wouldn’t hang out at the sledding hill just to hand out business cards.

  4. While I do object to Prof. Rizzo blaming my wife and me, I do agree with the wider argument that people need to accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Also, as Rod’s story above implies, privatizing the parks would solve the problem.

    Back in 2008, completing our baccalaureates my wife (computer security) and I (criminology) took a Winter Break class in “Terrorism for First Responders” offered by the School of Staff and Command at Eastern Mchigan University. EMU hosts winter and summer break classes in the Traverse City resort area. We were in Gaylord, a skiiing mecca. After classes, kids of all ages would be out snowboarding, skiing, etc., etc. Our own classmates were mostly ex-military active police and fire. They were gung-ho for snow. Coming from a family like that, my wife was infected by their enthusiasm. After I got her back on her feet and up the hill and into our room, I went out for medical supplies. I stopped at the first drugstore. “Where are your Ace bandages?” I asked. “Right behind you,” the pharmacist said. There, I saw a huge display of wraps and splints in elastics and plastics. Fortunately, the injury did not prevent Laurel from filling her blue book and we both finished with A grades.

  5. chuck martel says:

    This demonstrates the fact that there are THREE kinds of property, not just two. There is private property, state -owned property and public property. The third example is what we DON’T have.

  6. Harry says:

    Is that Michael Mann’s hockey stick getting the cold treatment?

Leave a Reply