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Nine-year-old accessibility activist wins high praise from City Council

'He blew us away. We should all keep the name Charlie Lachapelle-Smith in mind' - Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Shoemaker
Charlie Lachapelle-Smith
Charlie Lachapelle-Smith has convinced City Council to look into the feasibility of his proposed upgrades to Finn Hill. (photo supplied)

Sault Ste. Marie City Council decided this week to look into a detailed improvement plan for the Finn Hill tobogganing site developed by a nine-year-old accessibility activist. 

"He blew us away," said Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Shoemaker.

"We should all keep the name Charlie Lachapelle-Smith in mind," Shoemaker told his fellow councillors Monday night.

"He's nine now, but he's articulate, well-spoken, well-thought-out, active in his community, solutions-oriented, as he showed us through his presentation that he did for Coun. Hollingsworth, Coun. Hilsinger, myself and Coun. Christian on his proposal."

"I know everyone's going to be impressed with him if he attends at council meetings when these recommendations come forward, which I'm certain he will."

"It's a name that we're going to be seeing in the community for years, I can tell," Shoemaker told the meeting.

Here's Charlie's written pitch to the councillors:

I would like to improve Finn Hill by:

  • adding a conveyor belt, tow rope or chair lift
  • if you are like my grandmother who just got her knee replaced and her knee is very sore, and she picks you up from school, and then I say: "I’d like to go to Finn Hill, grandma.” But she can’t go up the hill. Then a lift would help her
  • also, what if you are in a little kid in a wheelchair and want to go tobogganing? Right now, they could not go to the hill without someone to pull them up
  • or what about other children and adults who do not have the ability to walk up the hill?
  • also, young kids can only go up one or two times before getting tired
  • all children would benefit by using it and getting to stay longer and ride more. Because it takes more energy go up the hill and is quick going back down
  • adding some extra toboggans, tubes and other sleds for use by children (for example charging five cents for one hour)
  • every now and then, the city would groom the hill so that there was a zig-zag course, a course with a jump, and a regular course – so kids would have different selection of hill terrain
  • making a bunny hill for young kids so they get the feeling of tobogganing before moving on to the big hills
  • maybe adding a little shack with a heater to heat up, and a food counter that includes hot chocolate, little fun treats, poutine and French fries, hamburgers and hot dogs, pizza and chocolate
  • add a big sign at the bottom of the hill in front of the Hub Trail, that says, “Finn Hill the Great Hill”

Councillors agreed Monday that Charlie's ideas fit in well with the 2016-2020 Sault Ste. Marie Corporate Strategic Plan and goals established by FutureSSM.

City staff have now been directed to review the nine-year-old's proposals with a report to be brought back to a future meeting of City Council.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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