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Drones, hoverboards part of Calgary’s futuristic parks bylaw amendments

What buzzes louder than a mosquito and is possibly even more annoying when you’re trying to enjoy time at a park?

The answer is a drone, and with the rise of the popular remote-controlled flying machines, the City of Calgary is including drone rules in its recommended bylaw changes to city Parks and Pathways.

The suggested changes are going before a council committee this week. The changes could be approved by Calgary City Council before the summer, and would go into effect immediately if approved.

On the subject of drones, city administration is proposing that drones over 250 grams face tight restrictions in Calgary’s parks. They would only be allowed in situations where the pilot had a special permit from the city.

Drones under 250 grams would be allowed in designated areas within parks, although it does not spell out how those areas would be chosen or marked off.

According to the report, a few parks are being considered for park-wide drone use. They include North Glenmore Park, Baker Park and Elliston Park.

The report also suggest there might be room for other remote-controlled vehicles including boats, cars and airplanes.

Kevin Lim with Skymount Drones, a drone store in Calgary, said creating clarity with the rules and regulations is always a good thing.

“Safety is a number one priority when you’re flying these things, and if they’re designating areas to have the ability to recreationally use your drone that’s closer within city limits, then that’s fantastic,” he said.

“That way the drone community is now together. You’re going to have more than one person flying these things at an area, and it’s going to bring camaraderie and knowledge and experience and awareness to one another.”

Drones aren’t the only futuristic devices that are being written into the bylaw. Hoverboards and other electric vehicles such as powered skateboards and scooters may soon be allowed on park pathways.

Because technological advances mean more unique powered vehicles are popping up all the time, the city is proposing to re-write the bylaw with an ongoing list of acceptable vehicles.

The report points out that these changes would only be for parks and pathways, and would not apply to city sidewalks or roads. Pathway speed restrictions will remain at 20 km/h.

The bylaws surrounding a more dated form of vehicular recreation will remain the same. Despite calls from some people to relax rules around tobogganing, city administration’s report says it can’t change the rules around designated areas.

“The number of serious injuries associated with tobogganing continues to be significant, even more serious than skateboard injuries,” reads the report.

It notes that the city is named in a number of lawsuits resulting from tobogganing accidents, and says it can only allow the activity in designated areas.

The report does say the city will try to designate more toboggan hills based on community nominations.

The report also suggest lifting some unclear and outdated rules around sports that involve an “airborne ball” or specific sames such as lawn darts and horseshoes.

The author of the report notes that weighted lawn darts that do not have sharp points are technically not currently allowed, while axe throwing is not explicitly prohibited.

If approved, the bylaw would give bylaw officers more common sense leeway to judge for themselves when a sport or activity is unsafe.