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Specialty Parks Bring Special Safety Requirements

Parks and recreation activities count among the critical offerings of municipal governments, making their communities more attractive to residents and businesses alike. Cities and towns are now offering a wider array of parks and recreational activities than ever before. Some are getting creative, offering facilities to groups with special interests. 

The City of Spartanburg, for example, has recently developed the Vic Bailey Subaru Bike Park. The park features wood and dirt flow trails, designed for everyone from beginner riders to advanced riders. 

The City of Pickens, meanwhile, now offers an off-road biking experience with its Town Creek Bike Park. It provides a unique riding experience and includes such features as dirt jumps, wall rides, a pump track and an earthen bowl. 


The signage at the City of Pickens’  Town Creek Bike Park provides maps, 
rules and safety information.

Special venues offer fun activities but bring with them inherent risks, and injuries can occur because of those risks. The primary loss exposures in recreation are liability claims from participants injured in recreational activities or to persons using public facilities. Generally, these claims bring allegations that municipalities have failed to maintain facilities properly.

Because these claims can be very costly and can erode community trust, officials must consider potential liability exposures when designing and developing a new recreation facility. It’s also critical to include a risk management component in the maintenance of any recreational area.  

When planning special recreation facilities like a bike park, leaders need to mitigate the potential risks proactively. These considerations can help limit liability exposures: 
  • Construct the facility using professionally accepted design standards and materials.
  • Install signage that communicates the rules and regulations, including the hours of operation and the hazards of the activity. The listed rules should also cover the required use of safety equipment, if applicable, and the need to be aware of any danger or directional signs for trails.
  • Require liability waivers to be signed before a participant uses the facility. The language of the agreement or waiver should be reviewed by the municipality’s legal counsel. 
After design and construction, a risk management program for a recreational facility should include an inspection program. This helps assess potential hazards and keeps all areas in a safe condition. Inspections must be conducted and documented routinely. A checklist should be used to note defects and actions taken to correct or repair potential exposures when identified. 

For municipalities who are considering developing additional recreational facilities and have questions about managing potential risks associated with recreational facilities, contact Loss Control Manager Bethany Pendley at bpendley@masc.sc or 803.933.1210; or Loss Control Consultant John Ciesielski at jciesielski@masc.sc or 803.354.4752.