Tahoe Amusement Park ready for tougher codes | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe Amusement Park ready for tougher codes

The merry-go-round, fun slide and tilt-a-whirl are far from the sophisticated entertainment found at California’s big theme parks, but they are the core of Tahoe Amusement Park.

A new bill aimed at holding parks like Disneyland accountable to the state for safety inspections will also affect Tahoe’s decade-old fun park. Assemblyman Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch) authored a bill that would require permanent amusement parks to undergo annual inspections of rides, train employees, report serious accidents and show proof of insurance. It is the sixth such bill since the 1960s.

California leads the nation in thrill-ride deaths with 14 from 1973 to 1998, and is one of 12 states that do not have laws governing the inspection of permanent amusement parks. California does regulate traveling carnivals.

Torlakson’s second attempt to get this type of legislation passed was sparked by the death of a tourist at Disneyland on Christmas Eve. His first attempt came after the death of a teen-ager at a Concord, Calif., water park.

Tahoe’s 32-year-old park would fall under the legislation. The park is a popular spot among locals for birthday parties and group and church gatherings. Owner Rich Robertson said he now has second-generation children coming to the park. Besides some added expense for inspections, Robertson said not much would change at the fun park.

“We have two priorities here: No. 1 is safety, and No. 2 is fun, in that order,” he said. “As far as we are concerned I’m not sure the bill is necessary, but I can’t speak for the whole industry.”

In the four years Robertson has operated the park, there have been no insurance claims. The park is inspected annually by Robertson’s insurance company and the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department. The snack bar is checked by the El Dorado County Health Department.

Robertson said he already carries $1 million in liability insurance for the park, a requirement of Torlakson’s “Permanent Amusement Ride Safety Inspection Program.”

“We’ve worked very hard to provide a safe place for kids to come and have a good time. We are an old-fashioned amusement park and we want to keep that same flavor.”

The bill would allow for fines up to $75,000 for owners who fail to meet the requirements. The bill was referred back to the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee where it passed on May 12. The committee defeated similar legislation last year. The bill is scheduled to be heard Wednesday in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Lobbying by California’s substantial amusement park industry defeated Torlakson’s last attempt and previous attempts by other legislators, according to legislative aids.

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