Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Mayor encourages safety, supervision at new skate park

Warning comes after boy hospitalized

By Joshua Hammann
The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE - Mayor Dave Armstrong stressed parental supervision and the use of safety equipment Monday after an 11-year-old Tennessee boy was critically injured last week at a new city skate park.

        Mr. Armstrong said at a news conference that the city would not make safety pads and helmets mandatory, and city officials would not supervise the Louisville Extreme Park.

        “The rules clearly state that children must have parental supervision,” Mr. Armstrong said. “It's important for parents to not simply use this park as a day care as many have been doing.”

        The park's $2.5 million first phase, designed by professional extreme-park architects, is not a playground for young children and should be used only by experienced skateboarders and bikers, Mr. Armstrong said.

        Signs indicating the difficulty levels - a green circle for beginners, a blue square for intermediate and a black diamond for advanced users - mark each obstacle in the park. Mr. Armstrong said new markers, including signs stating the rules, would be added.

        While safety gear is strongly encouraged, Mr. Armstrong said helmets and pads are not required because the parks department would then have to enforce similar safety standards in all city parks for almost every sporting activity. He denied that stricter safety regulations could mean lawsuits.

        And Metro Parks Director Brigid Sullivan said charging admission to the park would threaten the city's recreational immunity, meaning it could be sued by injured users.

        Ms. Sullivan said the city will sponsor clinics to teach young kids how to skateboard, bike and inline skate safely within their own abilities.

        The Tennessee boy, visiting the park with his family for the first time, was injured Friday morning after he rode his bike to the edge of the park's 12-foot concrete bowl and fell in. The boy wasn't wearing a helmet or other safety gear, police said.

        Kosair Hospital spokeswoman Lisa Brosky said the boy, whose name has not been released, remained in critical condition on Monday.

        In all, Kosair Children's Hospital has treated at least 27 people for skate-park injuries that ranged from fractures to serious head injuries, Ms. Brosky said.


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