Sometimes Bad Stuff Just Happens - Part One
Last Friday, a 10-year-old boy was seriously injured while sledding at Wilson Park. The boy, who was inexperienced and not wearing a helmet, struck a tree on the edge of the hill. The impact fractured his skull.
This was a horrible accident and everyone's prayers should certainly go out to the young man for a speedy and complete recovery.
At the same time, I find it hard to agree with the complaints of the boy's mother - who appears to be trying to blame Milwaukee County for the accident.
According to mom, the County should put fencing and hay bales around trees adjacent to sledding hills in an effort to prevent collisions. Mom argues that "Trees that are even on the edges ... If they are close to where kids could be, then it's not safe".
For its part, Milwaukee County officials say that measures like fencing and hay bales can actually make sledding areas more dangerous. The County also points out that serious injuries on sledding hills are extremely rare.
Here's the bottom line for me.
Sometimes bad stuff happens.
Since most parks have trees, most sledding hills in parks will have trees on their edges. Unless we're going to cut down all the trees around potential sledding hills, there will always be some risk. That's why parents need to assess whether a particular hill poses too great a risk for their child based on the child's age and experience. It's also undoubtedly why the County recommends that children below 12 wear a helmet while sledding.
The truth is that going down a hill on a sled has some inherent risk. You can fall off the sled, you can run into another sledder, you can hit something if you lose control. It's just the nature of the activity.
If there were a large number of children being injured while sledding in Milwaukee County Parks, I might be inclined to think there were some inherently dangerous conditions that need to be addressed. Since there aren't a lot of reports of injuries, my instinct is to say that this was a tragic - but freak - occurrence.
Honestly, I don't think there's anything Milwaukee County can do to guarantee that someone won't be injured while sledding. This means the real choice is between allowing sledding (and accepting some risk) or banning sledding in County Parks altogether.
I'd really hate to see the County ban sledding altogether. I'm certainly sorry that this ten-year-old was injured - but sometimes bad stuff just happens.