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POLITICS

Sioux City seeks sledding liability protection

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Politics,Associated Press,South Dakota

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) -- Joe Cloud took his son sledding on Monday. It was their first time at Grandview Park, and the two could hardly wait to glide down the snow-covered hills. But only one hill in the 32-acre park has the city's stamp of approval for sledding.

Cloud, of Sergeant Bluff, didn't know about Sioux City's sledding restrictions. He was ready to sail down a big hill in the park before seeing a boy at the bottom who slid into a tree.

Growing up, Cloud said, "We didn't have any rules."

In 2007, the City Council voted to restrict sledding to two locations citywide. Signs are posted where sledding is permitted, in Grandview Park and Sertoma Park.

"Even with signage, there is some risk in getting on a sled and going downhill," said Mayor Bob Scott.

The City Council is lobbying state lawmakers to protect municipalities from liability lawsuits filed by people injured in sledding accidents.

Current state law says cities are immune from lawsuits for injuries that occur on city property from activities perceived as "inherently dangerous," such as skateboarding, in-line skating, bicycling, unicycling, riding scooters, river rafting, canoeing and kayaking, said city Attorney Nicole Jensen-Harris. Sledding is not included in that list.

Scott said Iowa cities need to be protected from having to pay damages for those injured in sledding accidents as well.

"How can our citizens afford the liability?" he said.

The City Council last year approved a $2.75 million settlement of a lawsuit filed by a man injured on Jan. 11, 2008, when his snow tube slid into a parking sign at Sertoma Park, near Southern Hills Mall. David Rosalez is paralyzed from the waist down.

The city's share of the payment was $487,632, while the city's insurance carrier paid another $1.97 million, and a third party paid $300,000.

Sioux City police said they will be enforcing the city's sledding ordinance, which applies only to public areas, this winter. About 50 people were told to move from a restricted sledding zone to the designated area in Grandview Park last week, said Sgt. David Bishop. No citations were issued.

A similar incident happened last Saturday. Toni Van Cleave, of North Sioux City, took her son and grandson sledding in Grandview Park. Police told the boys, along with other sledders, that they couldn't sled on bigger hill next to the designated sledding zone.

"They can only sled on a small, little hill," Van Cleave said. "I don't think that's fair or right."

Even after Monday's sledding accident, children and adults continued to use the bigger hill soon after police officers left. A girl slid down, stopping just shy of a sport-utility vehicle parked on the road that runs through the park. She got up, smiling.

Just a couple hours earlier, Joe Cloud said, he saw a boy bleeding from the face after sliding into a tree around the same area.

"I didn't think sledding could be that dangerous," he said, watching his 8-year-old son, Colton, sled down the designated hill.

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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