Skate park raises safety concerns

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BRADENTON, Fla. - Despite the popularity of a new skate park on Bradenton's Riverwalk, some are questioning its safety after several skaters have ended up in the hospital.

Even on a Monday afternoon, it was easy to find lots of happy skaters at Bradenton's newest skate park. "There's a lot to do, it keeps you pumped up," said skater Tyler Yavalar.

One thing you won't see a lot of though, are helmets and other protective gear. It's something that has some parents on edge.

"It's a beautiful thing for the children. But at the same time we have to keep the kids safe," said one grandmother who did not want to be identified. She wonders why the signs at the park suggesting protective gear aren't mandating it instead. "Saying they should be strongly encouraged don't mean you have to wear one," said the woman.

As it stands, Bradenton's is a skate at your own risk park, much like Payne Park in Sarasota.

However, Payne Park has monitors and waivers, neither of which are present on the Riverwalk.

"We understand our liability," said David Gustafson, president of the Bradenton's Downtown Development Authority. "We have liability signs out there that are essentially stating that they are suggested to wear the helmets and the pads."

Officials say skaters should always be safety-minded, and they maintain encouraging protective gear is in everyone's best interest.

"The suggestion of the helmets was essentially how we decided to do that from advice from the skaters and advice from the community," said Gustafson. "We went through and talked to our risk management folks as well at the city and that's the direction went with."

Skaters we spoke with say it should ultimately be up to the person who's putting themselves at risk. "If you fall on your head and you're not wearing a helmet that's your problem so it's like a choice," said Yavalar.