Risk takers throw city for a loop
Safety and liability issues surrounding Bijou’s skateboard park will roll back into the consciousness of the city of South Lake Tahoe today.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Commission will review solutions to the absence of safety gear among skateboarders and their occasional confrontations with BMX riders, to name a few problems.
Signs are posted describing skateboarding as an “inherently dangerous sport” that commands “users assume all risk.” The signs have been defaced by graffiti.
Beyond the obvious concern over the health of the users, the city’s insurance carrier mandates the skateboarder, in-line skater and BMX rider wear a helmet, knee and elbow pads in order to use the concrete facility at Bijou Community Park, parks Superintendent Steve Weiss said.
Even though the city has not been sued, there is that potential, Weiss said.
The city may consider the possible closure of the park if no other solution appears to answer the problems, Weiss said. This is, of course, the most severe of choices to be imposed on a wide demographic of riders who use the park.
“They want older people to wear helmets so the young kids can see us (as role models),” helmetless and padless Joe DeBaun said Friday morning.
DeBaun, 23, takes issue with the mandate for the safety gear. He wants to take responsibility for himself.
“I don’t go on the rail because I have bills to pay,” he said.
Rails are a feature of skateboard parks that may present more risk.
But DeBaun said he knows his limits and avoids collisions with others.
He suggests the city provide incentives for skaters to wear helmets. He doesn’t believe the city will close the park.
“If they close the park, then what are they going to do,” he said.
Bobby Hyder, 33, said he would be disappointed if the park closes.
“I don’t want them to shut it down. If they didn’t have this, I’d have to go to Gardnerville,” he said.
Hyder uses the Tahoe park three times a week, receiving a few warnings from High Sierra Patrol for not wearing safety gear.
The city uses the security force through the summer months to enforce the rules of its community parks.
Hyder concedes there are altercations and collisions between skateboarders and BMX riders at times.
“They don’t go together. I’ve seen some nasty accidents,” he said.
Like DeBaun, Hyder suggests adults be responsible for whether they feel the need to wear safety gear.
However, he insists his 3-year-son, who loves skateboarding, wears a helmet.
He glanced over at another small child rolling up and down one side of the park.
Leo, 4, likes to wear a helmet, his father Roger Ross said.
“He thinks it looks cool,” he said.
“He knows if he doesn’t wear a helmet, he doesn’t skate,” his mother Karen Ross said, adding the family comes early in the day when they visit to avoid the crowds.
“We rarely see gear out here,” she said.
The city will consider a number of options, including more law enforcement or an educational program to keep the skateboard park safe. But some may cost money.
The park, which was installed in 1996 for $25,000, costs the city an estimated $200 a month.
The park will be discussed at the commission meeting at 5 today at the Cedar Room of the city’s Recreation Center at 1180 Rufus Allen Blvd.
Adoption of a new policy would need to go before the City Council.
Also, a new law goes into effect Jan. 1 that requires those under the age of 18 to wear a helmet when skateboarding.
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