As our community continues to move forward on the path of providing a free, public skatepark for the Bitterroot, one of the questions that some are asking is about liability insurance. Getting the park insured isn’t difficult at all, as all the other towns and municipalities in Montana with a skatepark can attest. Most cities are self-insured and put their skatepark insurance under the City’s existing municipal insurance policy, which frankly is where it belongs. Publicly owned skateparks are no different than any other public amenity. If the city already has other public recreational assets, it will also have some form of general liability and accident coverage that would cover additions to that existing infrastructure, including a skatepark.
Let’s take a quick look at the actual risks involved in skateboarding. The best research which quantifies the risks of skateboarding comes from the Journal of Trauma, Oct. 2002, and is written by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They determined the number of skateboarding injuries per active skateboarder and compared those numbers to other sports. Skateboarding had an injury rate of 8.9 per 1,000 participants while basketball produced 21.2 emergency room-treated injuries per 1,000 players. Statistically, skateboarding is safer than playing basketball! In fact, according to the Insurance Information Institute, as well as the Skate Park Association of the United States of America (SPAUSA), in the 15-24 year old age group, skateboarding has a lower percent injury rate than volleyball, football, basketball, soccer, and ice hockey, only baseball ranks lower. Another study done at Montana State University-Bozeman gives us a good characterization of these injuries. Thirty-t
hree percent of the injuries happened during the first week of skateboarding. Skateboarding on public streets or adjacent to traffic is more dangerous and can produce serious injuries due to collision with motor vehicles and uneven skating surfaces. Accordion to the Canadian Amateur Skateboarding Association only 5% of all skateboarding injuries even occur in skateparks with most injuries occurring due to irregular riding surfaces typically encountered outside a skatepark.
The City of Hamilton currently participates in the Montana Municipal Interlocal Authority, (MMIA) program. The MMIA is a self-funded risk retention pool created by the cities and towns of Montana to manage their municipal risks with the appropriate liability insurance policy. Skateparks are initially excluded from coverage on MMIA policies, but can be added back in with an endorsement at no charge. The only qualifier here is that there is documentation that the park was professionally designed and constructed which has been the intent from the beginning.
So liability concerns about our skatepark are unfounded. Public perception has yet to keep up with the facts but we welcome the opportunity to continue the dialogue!
Tom Kresan, Thad Widmer
Circle 13 Skatepark