Skate park revision moves forward

New ordinance extends protection for BMX users

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Skate park revision  moves forwardAfter several months of requests from the public podium, and more than an hour of discussion at Wednesday night’s regular meeting of the Ridgecrest City Council, the city is moving forward with an ordinance that expands use at the Skate Park on French Avenue to include BMX riders and other non-motorized, wheeled recreational users.

The Skate Park was built 20 years ago as a partnership between the city and community advocates — including the “Generation X-cellent” group formed in the 1990s to engage youth. Last fall, several BMX riders asked for the posted rules, which allowed only skateboarders to use the facility, to be more inclusive.

Erik Catlin, one of the members of the Gen X group that helped raise money for the park, said that new provisions in California law extended coverage for liability insurance (previously more expensive for bike riders) to allow more diverse use.

Although that law recently changed, Vice Mayor Lindsey Stephens took up the issue in the Quality of Life Committee. She and City Attorney Lloyd Pilchen found another provision that allows cities to protect themselves from liability against willing users in recreational opportunities that are inherently dangerous.

However, that provision requires Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin to outline rules that will be posted on site, and enforced by officers. Requirements include prohibiting children younger than 12 from participating, and that all users wear helmets.

Catlin said that the best way to protect users from getting in each other’s way is to expand the park.

Members of the council mentioned that resources are not immediately available for the expansion, but Stephens suggested they continue to explore that option in the future.

Parks and Recreation Director Jason Patin referenced an e-mail that he wrote to the council discouraging them from allowing mixed use, but did not articulate his reasons for opposition in the public meeting. He did, however, say he would be open to expanding the park as a potential solution.

The council passed the first reading of the resolution. A required second-reading will appear on a future council agenda.

Story First Published: 2020-03-06