November 16, 2004

Close to Home and Very Safe

1115_1.jpg1115_2.jpgOn Sunday, Elke, David and I went for a wander in the Elora Gorge. I've been there many times - so often that it takes a visit from an out-of-towner (a foreigner at that!) to inspire me to 1115_3.jpggo (well, that, and I was convinced I saw the Elora Gorge in a cheesy made-for-tv movie I saw a few minutes of while hanging out in the 500 channel universe the other night). And, turns out, a few things have changed since I've last been to the Gorge.

It's as pretty as ever. As always, there were boats playing in the water - even though the water levels were so pathetically low that I wondered just how much fun that would have been. But there's new stuff, and it relates to safety. I already knew that the powers that be in the Gorge had already managed to 1115_4.jpg1115_5.jpg1115_6.jpgregulate tubing. Once upon a time, if you wanted to tube down the Gorge, it was frowned upon, but here's what you did: you stopped by the garage on the outskirts of town, and bought a tractor inner tube. I think I paid $10 for that. Then you took that inner tube (which they blew up for you at the garage if you asked nicely) and, wearing bathing suit and shoes, made your way to the top of the run, and then float on down. No life jacket, no helmet, not a sanctioned activity. I was all for the Conservation Authority taking over that one: now, you can rent the tube (I have no idea what I did with my $10 tractor tube), you are outfitted with helmet and lifejacket, and I'm sure it's just as much fun.

1115_7.jpg1115_9.jpgThe latest development of note in the Gorge ("latest", by the way, defined as "since I was there last") is the placing of an awful lot of black chain-link fencing. The fencing's primary purpose is to keep you away from dangerous edges - unfortunately, that also means it keeps you away from many of the more interesting things there are to explore. Now, you can bumble along the fence, knowing that you won't fall to your death if you close your eyes and continue walking for 20 or more feet. You can also enjoy the view at the designated scenic viewpoints, since those are the only places you are allowed near the edge. Best of all, in those places where there are steps/stairs to take you down the edge of the escarpment, you can riccochet from fence to fence, since you are safely contained in a nice little chain-link compound. Fun!

1115_10.jpg1115_11.jpgExcept not. For the first while, I was the nice little rule-abiding citizen that I usually am (though perhaps I should point out: we went in the back way. The way that used to be the back way in, then got turned into the back way with the self-service honour system fee station - and I have put money in there that way - and then became the closed off by chain link fence back way which is now the chain link fence with a hole cut into it back way into the Gorge). After a few frustrated attempts at exploring, though, I wandered away from Dave and Elke, and then I just happened to wander over the fence. Interestingly enough, within about 10 minutes I ran into Dave and Elke - on the same side of the fence that I was! Instead of the fence being between us and the cliff, we were between cliff and fence. It was fun! We didn't stupidly wander off the edge of the cliff! It didn't sneak up on us and suck us down!

In all seriousness, I know there are many reasons for rules, and I know that safety matters. But the abundance of chain link here? The way I see it, it lulls you into a false sense of security: given this big-ass fence, a child could not possibly wander near the cliff edge. Hence, supervision of children becomes less crucial. Except of course the fence abruptly ends at some point, leaving the cliff casually exposed to aimless wanderers who would of course fall right off the edge unless there are flashing danger! danger! signs (or chain link fences). Or something.

Fortunately, the pub was as it always was, and it was a beautiful day, and I had fun. And Dave was bound to be satisfied, since he was eating Smarties. They don't have those in the US. (Oh, shut up. I said SmartIEs, not Smarts. Dave's bumper sticker was blue.)

Posted by Johanna at November 16, 2004 04:37 PM

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