Should the city fine tres­passers at Al­bion Falls?

Coun­cil looking at ways to stop hik­ers

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW VAN DON­GEN

Coun­cil­lors will talk about the prospect of tick­et­ing tres­passers at Al­bion Falls — and some­day, build­ing stairs to the bot­tom — to help pre­vent fall­ing deaths at the pop­u­lar cataract.

Parks man­ager Kara Bunn will update the pub­lic works com­mit­tee Thurs­day on new safety mea­sures, like top-of-gorge fenc­ing, added since a Toronto photographer lost his foot­ing and plunged to his death at the east Moun­tain wa­ter­fall last month.

Ward 6 Coun. Tom Jack­son said he plans to ask fel­low coun­cil­lors to en­dorse city fines for tres­pass­ing be­yond those new bar­ri­ers. “I would very much like to give both po­lice of­fi­cers and mu­nic­i­pal by­law of­fi­cers the abil­ity to hand out tick­ets,” he said.

Jack­son said Hamil­ton po­lice have re­cently sent un­der­cover of­fi­cers to Al­bion Falls, at the city’s re­quest, to keep an eye out for de­ter­mined vis­i­tors rip­ping down tem­po­rary safety bar­ri­ers.

But vis­i­ble, en­force­able mu­nic­i­pal tres­pass­ing rules would give those of­fi­cers an ad­di­tional “tool to stem the tide of in­ci­dents,” he said.

The Moun­tain coun­cil­lor also said he in­tends to re­search fund­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for con­struc­tion of stairs to a safe view­ing plat­form at the bot­tom of the falls. “De­spite our cur­rent chal­lenges, I haven’t given up on that idea,” he said.

David Rees hopes coun­cil­lors fo­cus on build­ing safer paths, “not fences and fines.”

“The trail (to the bot­tom) is not un­safe. I’m 59, both my knees are shot, but I can do it, no prob­lem,” said Rees, a photographer who has par­tic­i­pated in pop­u­lar Al­bion Falls “il­lu­mi­na­tion” nights that at­tract dozens of peo­ple to the base of the cataract at night.

“We have never had a prob­lem. The prob­lem is peo­ple try­ing to climb the (gorge) walls, or touch the falls, or dan­gle their feet off the edge.”

Sim­ply fin­ing any­one who tries to reach the base of the falls would be “hugely un­fair” — and prob­a­bly won’t help, he sug­gested. “The best place to pho­to­graph a wa­ter- fall is from the bot­tom. Peo­ple are not go­ing to stop go­ing there,” he said.

There is prece­dent for tick­et­ing tres­passers, how­ever. The City of Toronto in­stalled or­ange “No Tres­pass­ing” signs along the edge of the pop­u­lar — and land­slide­prone — Scar­bor­ough Bluffs. The signs cite a mu­nic­i­pal code that gov­erns ac­cess to pub­lic parks and warn of a max­i­mum $5,000 fine.

That didn’t stop a pair of 20some­thing sib­lings from cross­ing a safety bar­rier and get­ting stuck July 9. Toronto Po­lice tweeted the brother and sis­ter were res­cued — and then charged un­der the city’s by­law.

Nei­ther Toronto po­lice nor the city could say Wed­nes­day how of­ten such charges are laid. But Toronto Fire tweeted the July 9 rescue was the sev­enth at the bluffs this year.

Fire­fight­ers have re­sponded to Al­bion Falls six times this year for falls or stuck hik­ers. Other res­cues this sum­mer have come at Web­ster Falls, the Devil’s Punch Bowl and most re­cently Wed­nes­day at Che­doke Falls. To­tal rescue calls spiked to 29 in 2016, a fiveyear high.

Work­ers were ex­pected to fin­ish in­stalling two-me­tre-tall chain­link fenc­ing around the top of Al­bion Falls Wed­nes­day, in­clud­ing a sec­tion block­ing ac­cess to an old set of con­crete steps used by vis­i­tors seek­ing a route to the bot­tom of the east Moun­tain falls.

(An­other promon­tory fur­ther along the gorge, dubbed Lover’s Leap based on a 19th cen­tury leg­end about a heart­bro­ken young woman who jumped to her death, will also be fenced in fu­ture.)

Bunn said the city is also in­stalling new “vis­ual ex­plainer” signs meant to en­sure all vis­i­tors un­der­stand the risks of walk­ing to the brink of a 20-me­tre-high gorge.

CATHIE COWARD, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Fire­fight­ers were called to the bot­tom of Che­doke Falls Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon for a po­ten­tial rope rescue af­ter two members of a group of four teenagers had re­port­edly be­come stuck in the area of the falls. Fire­fight­ers were able to walk them safely out of the area with­out the need for a rope rescue.

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