BAR HARBOR — With the recent grand opening of the long-awaited MDI Skatepark on Park Street in Bar Harbor, skateboarders, roller bladers and BMX bikers have enjoyed free reign of their new playland.
But some citizens have wondered why there is not a helmet policy in place at the skate park.
“It is skate at your own risk. Helmets are highly recommended and that is our position,” said Karen Svenson, MDI Skatepark Association chairman. “If we were to set a policy, then we would need to put resources into enforcement, and we can’t do that.”
The MDI Skatepark Association came to the town with plans for a sign but was told there was no need to have a sign singling out users of the skate park. Those who skateboard and rollerblade are expected to follow the same set of regulations as they would at the nearby town ballfields, which include common sense and courtesy.
“Skateboarders, riders, bikers – all sporting events are participate at your own risk, regardless of your sport,” Svenson said.
Because the park is on town land and under the purview of the town’s Park and Recreations Department, the skate park is covered by Bar Harbor’s liability insurance policy.
“We have an umbrella policy, and we are working with our insurer to see if there may be a sign that says ‘skate at your own risk’ or ‘use at your own risk,’” said Town Manager Cornell Knight.
Private citizens cannot sue towns as the result of injury on town property unless there is proof of negligence by the town.
“People who play baseball play at their own risk,” said Svenson. “The analogy was given to us that it is up to batters to wear helmets. It’s recommended, but not required.”
Because there is no town ordinance or law requiring safety gear at the park, no one can be punished for failing to do so.
“There are certain dangers that go along with being a skateboarder, and there are certain dangers that go with coming down a slide or walking down the sidewalk,” said Jeff Dobbs, Parks and Recreation Committee chairman. “Unless there is gross negligence [by the town], then it would fall under the town’s liability insurance policy.”
Dobbs said that on the contrary, displaying a sign with language requiring safety gear would open up the skate park and the town to scrutiny, because that would require enforcement.
Even with no official regulation requiring helmets, the Skatepark Association encourages all boarders to wear proper safety gear.
“We hope that people use their own common sense,” said Svenson. “We see the younger kids whose moms make them wear helmets, but for the young adults and adults, it is less consistent.”