Injured at a community skating park? Dial 1-800-BAD-SK8R!

The next town over recently opened a facility for skateboarders. I have nothing against skateboarding; my bad balance and cheap piece of shit board (it was store-bought, but virtually a plank with wheels and stuff from a roller skate screwed to it) kept me from enjoying what was then called “sidewalk surfing” by people who wanted to make a buck off it, and I admire the grace and athleticism shown by skaters, as long as they are not busting up the stone steps and brass railings by the library. In other words, I agree they need a better place to meet and practice without knocking over old ladies, because it looks like fun.

However (My user agreement requires me to include at least one “however” in every post, as well as a balanced complement of multiple parentheses. And lots of commas and sentences that begin with conjunctions.), as a grumpy, old man who has ridden on one of those deathtraps (my brother’s board was better, though I still wasn’t), I was shocked, or at least disappointed, to see that none of the kids were wearing the pads and helmets that would help keep them from earning Darwin Awards.

A skate park accessible by the public seems very much an attractive nuisance, so I assume the village lawyered-up before building it, and I assume a safety gear requirement is posted, but a posting without enforcement is laughable, especially when dealing with teenage boys, who are foolhardy by nature. I suppose there is even a requirement that Junior get a parent’s permission before using it.

So let’s think about it. Junior, aged fifteen, permission slip in hand but no helmet on head, cracks his skull. Will the village be able to point to the slip and the sign and successfully wash its hands of it? When Junior is twenty-two, sees Lou Cairo or some other franchise lawyer on TV, and starts experiencing “dizzy spells” or some other condition that is hard to disprove, can he sue his parents for signing that form and pay off his student debts? Is a village installing a skate park as insane as I think it is? My town took out the three-meter diving board at the pool because of possible liability issues, and those seem much safer.

Basically, it looks like they get by on a combination of insurance, state laws limiting liability, and waivers signed by the participants. Representative articles here, here, and here.

Hah! It is just a matter of time before personal injury lawyers put that rosy optimism to the test.

“Skate at their own risk?” We are mostly talking about minor children who are, I thought, considered legally incapable of making such a judgement, and rely on the judgement of their parents and civic officials.

Now, I am a member of what seems to be the last poorly-supervised generation, but we mostly knew to keep our flirtations with death away from the eyes of the authorities. And my father, a lawyer, would blame me for being a dumbass long before he considered a lawsuit, but there were fewer lawyers then and those who specialized in nuisance lawsuits couldn’t advertize that several times an hour on daytime TV. I’m also a father of the old school, and usually have to laugh at my kids the moment after I determine they haven’t killed themselves. However, I still believe that community skate parks are a bad idea because kids are foolish and towns have unrealistic beliefs in how air-tight their legal security is.

City skateparks have been in existence for years. And while I don’t get it, they don’t have a lot of liability risk. My son is a boarder, and refuses to wear pads or a helmet - and also surprisingly, serious skateboard injuries are fairly rare.

(Check out Burnside Bridge in Portland, which has been there 20 years. Or for "oh my God, the Louisville Extreme Park)