County wants helmet requirement in exchange for skatepark donation

Mountain View County has agreed to donate $10,000 to a proposed Sundre skatepark — but there’s a catch.

Mountain View County has agreed to donate $10,000 to a proposed Sundre skatepark — but there’s a catch.

In return, the county insists the group raising money for the skatepark require helmets for all users under 18 years old.

Councillor Al Kemmere recommended the motion at a committee meeting and for him it was all about taking a proactive approach to child safety rather than reacting to situations later. Council endorsed the motion on Wednesday.

“I guess I’m a strong believer that as adults we have the right to make our decisions as adults. But we have to come up with ways to try to protect the kids.

“I’m the one who made the motion, primarily because I think this is the opportunity to have that discussion in advance and have it put on the table.”

Kemmere said the idea generated some debate and one councillor didn’t think it was fair to put conditions on the grant.

But Kemmere stands by the strategy, which helps make skateparks safer for the youngsters who may not find their exercise on soccer fields or hockey rinks.

Sundre Mayor Annette Clews said her council is expected to discuss the county’s motion at a Feb. 21 governance meeting.

Clews called the approach “proactive” on the part of the county, but added that council must still discuss the implications before making a decision. The town donated a vacant lot for the skatepark.

Council has had preliminary discussions about safety at the skatepark, which has yet to be built. The town’s bylaw officer was expected to bring a report back later on potential safety issues.

“It was in our thought processes, but we haven’t actually sat down and had a detailed discussion about it.”

The Sundre and District Skatepark Society has been raising cash for the $230,000 facility. It has about $90,000 in cash and $15,000 in in-kind donations and hopes to raise that total to $130,000, then apply for a $105,000 provincial grant. The society hopes to start work this spring on its park.

A society representative could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

This is not the first time a Central Alberta community has faced the helmet issue in skateparks. It was the subject of much discussion in Olds last summer.

Mayor Judy Dahl said Olds council and the community appeared split on the issue and a resolution was never reached.

One of the big questions was how helmet use would be enforced. Unlike with bike helmets, there is no provincial legislation backing up a requirement that they be worn by skateboard users.

“I think that half of council thought it was a good idea that we should enforce it immediately and the other half said how are we going to,” said Dahl.

“There’s just really too many issues for us to come to a resolution at this time.”

In researching the issue for council, Olds staff found no examples of outdoor Alberta skateparks where helmet use is required for those under 18. It is common in indoor parks, where customers are also often required to sign waivers.

Dahl said she will be watching what Sundre does closely.

Kristina Oberg, City of Red Deer’s Culture Department superintendent, said there are no helmet rules at the city’s skatepark beyond provincial legislation on bike helmets.

While the city provided the land, a local skatepark group raised the money and the park is considered their project.

The city is planning to build a new skatepark near Glendale School in the next 18 months, but there has been no discussion yet about rules for users.

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