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Cycling crash causes concern at Skate Park
by MATTHEW NASH
Following a bicycle crash and injury at the Sequim Skate Park, parents and city staff are on alert about skaters and bicyclists’ safety.
On Aug. 16, Sara Mobley, 15, injured herself while riding without a helmet. She landed on her head and neck after going up the park’s volcano, a cone-like concrete slab.
She was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center for treatment of severe head trauma. Doctors released her five days later but she continues regularly scheduled rehabilitation and is limited to three classes a day for now.
Sara’s mother, who requested anonymity, said doctors told her they’ve never seen a patient in Sara’s condition come in and wake up.
“It was truly a miracle,” she said.
The City of Sequim plans to provide materials for a helmet storage facility at the entrance of the park, with a Boy Scout building the structure as part of his Eagle Scout badge service project. The Parks Advisory Board determined last week the helmets rack could help alleviate injuries at the skate park, finished in November 2000, at a cost of more than $250,000.
Parks manager Jeff Edwards said this is the first major injury since he’s been in Sequim.
“We want to save lives through this,” Edwards said. “We’re not trying to be mean. Kids need to understand these will be out there for them to use.”
The city plans to open itself up to helmet donations and budget some money in 2012 to purchase helmets.
Prompting for the project came from Sara’s friend’s mom, Stacey DelaBarre-Martin.
“A lot of kids are choosing not to wear helmets that have access to helmets,” DelaBarre-Martin said. “The fact that Sara survived is very lucky. The community needs to know this is a problem. We’ve been lucky no one has died from not using a helmet.”
She and local businesses want to reward students wearing helmets with ongoing gift certificates once a month but are waiting on progress of the helmet rack.
“The whole goal is to get helmets on their heads,” DelaBarre-Martin said.
Edwards hopes the helmet rack is installed soon but doesn’t have a time frame yet.
“I hope they wear them,” Sara’s mom said.
“But they can’t wear them if they don’t have them. Maybe if they see enough injuries they’ll wear them.”
Sara’s accident comes more than five years after the death of 14-year-old Frank Russo at the Port Angeles Skate Park. Riders in Sequim were well aware of the tragedy. However, about half of them weren’t wearing helmets at the time of the interview.
Local skaters and bicyclists aren’t sure what to make of the helmet rack idea.
Some said certain people would steal the helmets and vandalize the rack, whereas others welcome free helmets and would wear them.
Edwards said he anticipates riders taking helmets.
“We’re going to have to trust kids,” he said. “As long as they use them then it’s OK if they take them home.”
Chris Ryerson, a skate park regular, feels accidents come from crowded conditions.
“Why spend the money on (the racks) and not take out the fence and expand the park?” he asked.
Ryerson and others agreed that the volcano is fun and many like to go big, jump high from it. But they find the park growing stale.
The Sequim Skate Park isn’t slated for expansion, Edwards said, and there aren’t funds to do it.
Riders admit the bicycle dirt track next to the park rarely is used. Edwards knows that and said the city might consider using the land for something else.
Ride safeSequim Skate Park allows skateboards, bicycles, rollerblades and scooters although there are more bicycles than anything.
Some Port Angeles bicyclists ride Clallam Transit or drive to Sequim because Port Angeles Skate Park allows only skateboards.
Riders attest that some injuries come from lack of maintenance in the park.
“It has everything to do with what they are doing in there,” he said.
City staff removed sofas, tires, wooden pallets and a lot of garbage in the past.
Crews pick up trash daily and empty cans inside and outside the park.
Edwards said he’s locked down the park a few times in the past five years because of graffiti and garbage. Last year, he closed it for one month, which resulted in riders policing the park themselves.
“When you take it away from them for a month, they start to understand,” Edwards said. “It’s not something we want to do.”
Sequim Skate Park requires helmets. Signs are posted at both entrances to the park.
Contact the City of Sequim’s Community Development and Public Works, 615 N. Fifth Ave., at 683-4908 or visit www.ci.sequim.wa.us.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.