Airing It Out

Skateboard park legislation
puts liability in the
hands of parents

By Pat Omandam

Skateboarders like Carl Wold, of Pahoa, Hawaii, want a nearby skate park. But Hawaii County is reluctant to build one unless shielded from liability if a skater gets hurt.

More than 100 supporters sought legislative help yesterday to make it easier to build community skate parks. Here, Colin Yamashita, 14, gets some hang time at Keolu Skate Park.

So Wold was among 100 people, mostly from the Big Island, who offered written testimony yesterday in support of a state bill that would make parents and guardians liable for skateboarding injuriesat county skate parks.

"I am a skater, and I think that if this bill got passed, it would make it easier to get a skate park in Pahoa, because the state wouldn't have to worry about liability for skaters getting injured," Wold said in testimony to the Senate Judiciary and Transportation committees.

The bill, which also required skateboarders to wear helmets and elbow and knee pads, was deferred by senators in favor of similar bills on liability immunity for the state and counties that are moving through the Legislature.

Hawaii Mayor Harry Kim, in his written testimony, said the county can no longer ignore the community's desire for skateboard facilities. But, he said, county officials also believe that building skateboard facilities will open the county to "enormous liability, beyond what we can reasonably expect the taxpayers to absorb."

Kim said if the standard of liability for the counties was raised, the county would be able to work with the community to build skate parks.

"We want to assist, and believe that the way out of this dilemma is to ask the Legislature for protection from liability," Kim said. "We believe skateboarding is inherently dangerous, and therefore it is appropriate to ask that the risk of injury be borne by the participants."

Representatives from some community groups agree.

Florence "Betsy" Mitchell, president of the Cooper Center Council in Volcano, said many Big Island communities are somewhat isolated, and young people have little to do after school.

Skateboarding is a favorite pastime, and the community wants a safe and legal place to skate there.

B. Martha Lockwood, treasurer of the Volcano Community Association, added that youth activities are critical for the "social health" of the community.

"Healthy after-school activities are essential for our youth. Without such fun outlets for their boundless energies, many kids will turn to abuse of drugs and alcohol as the only options available," Lockwood said.

Honolulu has nine skateboard parks, with more on the drawing boards. Last year, the Honolulu City Council rejected a proposal to place a moratorium on skateboard park construction while it studied the question of liability.

E-mail to City Desk


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