So let's get rid of this Senate Bill 995, right? Not so simple. This bill is scheduled to expire in 1997, though it can be renewed. If it is allowed to "sunset" (or expire), then skatepark owners, both public and private, would suddenly become liable for skater injuries. In the 1980s a flood of California's private skateparks were closed down because insurance rates became too expensive.
IASC, the International Association of Skateboard Companies, back in 2002 actually supported the bill. John Bernards, the Executive Director of IASC explained in his interview with The California Aggie, "Originally we were behind it because we thought it would increase the size of skateparks. We will support anything that will increase skateboarding." The move is a very controversial one - on the one hand, IASC was hoping to extend some protection to California skateparks. On the other hand, Californian skaters are now in a quite a mess. So what to do?
The Hazardous Recreational Activities ListCalifornia has something called the HRA List, or Hazardous Recreational Activities list - Government Code 831.7. Being on the HRA list would keep cities and private citizens from being responsible for accidents while skateboarding at a skatepark, and there would therefore be no need for a law requiring helmets and pads.
Clarkie of Realskate.com saw this as a solution, and began a petition on her site, now with over 4,500 signatures. Unfortunately, the skateboarding community is having a hard time finding a unified voice. This weekend IASC will hold one of their yearly meetings at ASR, the Action Sports Retailers convention. At this meeting, IASC plans to discuss their own petition to change these laws. And Dick Guthrie from the Southern California Skatepark Coalition said in an interview, "We would prefer to see both happen: skateboarding in the HRA and [keeping] helmets on the books." (The California Aggie)
So what does the skateboarding community want? And why not just combine IASC's petition with the one already being collected at Realskate.com? Part of the reason has been mentioned already - there is no unified voice. People like Clarkie feel pushed aside by IASC, and things get ugly.
What You Can DoWhat happens in California will be a model for the rest of the US, and will have impact worldwide. Already, skateboarder communities in other states are seeing what's going on in California, and seeing about changing their own laws. Hopefully, we as the skateboarding community can unite on this front, and learn to put aside selfish ambition and work for the good of all skaters.
The good news is that getting skateboarding on the HRA list looks favorable. The hard part comes after that - going city to city, and getting local laws changed to reflect the freedom skaters should be experiencing. Want to help in the effort? Excellent - here are three places to start: