Tag Archives: South Kitsap Regional Park

With skatepark open, a word on helmets

South Kitsap Skatepark opened today, after six years of planning and nearly eight months of construction. Immediately the place was filled with jubilent skateboarders and trick bike riders, according to Kitsap Sun reporter Brynn Grimley, who passed the park on her way home earlier.

Tomorrow (Saturday) there will be a grand opening celebration.

As work on the park was under way in January, I heard from James Gates, a local resident concerned with personal safety. More than one member of Gates’ family has had head injuries related to skateboarding.

“I am in favor of a park, but not in favor of accidents that are preventable,” Gates said.

The county, which owns the skatepark at South Kitsap Regional Park, does not require helmets. Signs are posted recommending use of helmets and knee pads. Those signs confer “recreational immunity” on the county from anyone who would sue over injuries from use of the skatepark, according to Ric Catron, the county’s parks project manager.

Catron is from Oregon, where helmets are required by law for bike riders and skateboarders under 16. Earlier this year a bill, now dead, proposed to raise the age to 18.

Catron was surprised by Washington’s lack of a similar helmet law. In Oregon, where Catron also worked in parks development, violators could be fined, heftily. Some jurisdictions confiscated skateboards from those who neglected the law.

Gates thinks South Kitsap Skatepark Association, a major donor to the skatepark, should take the lead in educating young skateboarders about the importance of helmets, and, Gates said, they should lead by example. Mike VanDenBergh one of the SKSPSA’s leaders said he always wears a helmet and has his children, Ethan, 13, and Sophie, 11, do so as well.

At the event Saturday, professional skateboarders will be giving tips. It will be interesting to see if safety is emphasized in their lessons.

Parents, do you make your children wear helmets? Do you wear them yourself?

Speaking of BMX bikes …

Earlier this week, we ran a story about a state grant Kitsap County Parks and Recreation hopes to get for some of the work on a planned state-of-the art outdoor skateboard facility at South Kitsap Regional Park.

Formal plans call for a BMX bike track adjacent but not connected to the skatepark. But informally, BMX riders have for decades been enjoying their sport on a warren of trails with do-it-yourself jumps in the wooded part of the 200-acre park.

According to 32-year-old Chris Marin of Port Orchard, default spokesman for the loosely affiliated BXM community in South Kitsap, the group is self-policing. Older riders and parents step in to dismantle jumps that show just a little too much industry. The unspoken rule is that jumps must be passable for younger riders and others who may not wish to defy gravity.

A circular race track built in the early 1980s was removed some years ago.

The course is well-used, Marin said. On any given weekday, 30 to 50 riders trickle through. On weekends, 60 to 80 riders is typical, he estimates. Most are teenage guys, but some are older. Marin said he’d like to see more girls out there riding the jumps.

The county checks in on the property periodically, with an eye to its own “risk management.” In March, Marin got a call about a water heater being used to support one of the features. According to Parks and Recreation Director Jim Dunwiddie, some of the jumps were getting “close to 10 feet tall.”

“There was some concern there would be major injuries if the jump building continues,” Dunwiddie said.

The county is holding back for now on harsh enforcement. They gave the riders time to remedy the situation.

Marin orchestrated removal of the water heater, and a couple of weeks ago, when Dunwiddie went out with the official who evaluates the county’s liability, the offending jumps had been removed or lowered. Dunwiddie passed out his business cards to a few riders who were there and invited them to spread the word that he’s looking for others, beside Marin, who might take on more formal stewardship of the area. As of Monday, he had not heard from anyone.

Marin said publicity over the water heater helped, in that a few parents and other adults have stepped up offering to help keep the track safe and clean. As for plans for a more formal track closer to the road, Marin said, more or less, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Unlike the South Kitsap Skatepark Association, which has raised more than $100,000 toward a public skatepark, BMX’ers can operate on a shoestring, Marin said. He believes BMX’ers would be perfectly content to continue as they have for an estimated four decades.

“We don’t want anything. All we need is space, and we can do the work ourselves,” Marin said. “If we could stay where we are, we could be there for the next 40 years.”

Marin would like to see the county give permission for the race track to be rebuilt. Those who installed it even ran water and power out to the area, so he believes it could be done for minimal expense.

Anyone with an interest in the BMX track at South Kitsap Regional park can call Dunwiddie at (360) 337-5350 or volunteer/stewardship coordinator Lori Raymaker at (360) 337-5372 or parks superintendent Dori Leckner at (360) 337-5362.