Reward program still doesn’t convince everyone
A new program rewards skaters at the Bijou Community Park’s skate facility for wearing protective equipment – but many still won’t do it.
Each skater is required by state law and city ordinance to wear a helmet, knee pads and elbow pads at the skate park, which is on city property, said Park and Recreation Superintendent Steve Weiss.
The fine for not wearing protective gear at the park is $100, but instead of just punishing kids for not wearing pads, the program strives to do the opposite by awarding skaters who abide by the rules with prizes, such as a Sony Play Station and pizza donated by businesses.
“I’m from the positive approach,” Weiss said.
The program, a cooperative effort between the city of South Lake Tahoe and High Sierra Patrol, has awarded 11 kids with prizes since it began July 27. It will continue through Sept. 9.
Despite the positive approach, many skaters have no interest in wearing protective gear, saying it is unnecessary and just gets in the way.
“Generally, it’s the older kids who are not wearing those items; and it is very common for those violators to give the police department a hard time because they resent wearing those items,” said police spokesman Chuck Owens.
Owens said most of the kids who don’t wear their protective gear are 18 and older. Last Saturday the police spotted 10 violators at the park, Owens said.
But Weiss is in no hurry to give up. He said he will evaluate the program when it is over and decide what changes to make.
“If it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.” he said.
“I believe it is helpful,” Owens said of the program. “But I don’t think it will solve our problem.”
Jimi Tomer, 16, said he doesn’t wear pads, because the park is so small it’s not necessary. But he brings a helmet in case the police come.
“I never fall and hit my head,” he said.
Tomer compares skating in the park to skating on the street.
“If you can skate on the street, it’s the same thing,” he said.
The park was built in 1996 by skaters who worked together to raise funds. Many volunteers also contributed to construction of the park and feel a kind of ownership.
“I definitely feel like we made this park happen because we did,” said Dave Apodaca, 22.
Apodaca said he would definitely wear pads on a 12-foot or 15-foot vertical ramp, but the park is so small he is constantly bending his knees to ollie and knee pads get in the way.
Many of the skaters feel that if you don’t know how to fall and roll then you shouldn’t be at the park.
“If you freak out and put out your wrist, that’s when things get broken,” Apodaca said.
Apodaca said some officers are rude when approaching skaters who are not wearing pads, which often causes conflicts.
“There is no reason for them to come around and give us tickets when we’re just trying got have fun,” he said.
While $100 can be a hefty fine for a kid, like a speeding ticket the fine can escalate with time. Jacob Reynolds, 18, said he got a ticket in November and it is now $250.
“I don’t like cops as much as the other guy, but they’re just doing their job,” he said.
Kent Church, 30, said he thinks if more people wore pads it would be more acceptable, but he is not in favor of the enforcement.
“I think it is a good idea to wear pads,” he said. “I just don’t like them requiring it.”
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