Jon Debnam, 18, of Medford, pulls off a grab at the Bear Creek Skate Park Wednesday.

Hey Skaters, Heads Up

Skaters beware: If you don't wear a helmet in the Bear Creek Skate Park, you could soon get hit with a $25 fine.

Medford police want the city to pass an ordinance that would give them more clout to issue citations to children or their parents.

"The hope isn't to be punitive, but to ensure compliance," said Medford police Lt. Brett Johnson.

Within the next two months, the Medford Police Department will ask the City Council to pass the ordinance.

If the law is approved, police and Parks and Recreation Department officials would attempt to educate skaters about the importance of helmets and point out that they could risk getting a fine.

Johnson said police would announce a date when they would start issuing citations for failure to wear a helmet.

Most violations for city ordinances carry $100 fines, but Johnson said the lower amount is designed with children and teenagers in mind.

Police previously had tried to issue citations under a trespassing ordinance, but the courts didn't buy the argument that skaters were actually trespassing in a public park, Johnson said.

At the skate park Wednesday, almost half the skaters didn't have helmets. Children younger than 15 appeared to be wearing helmets, while older teenagers scoffed at the idea.

Jon Debnam, an 18-year-old who was catching a lot of air without head protection, doesn't see the point in the rules, saying he's old enough to make up his own mind about wearing a helmet.

"I'm comfortable doing what I'm doing," he said.

Debnam said he's had a few concussions, and he said a friend fell in the square bowl at the skate park and had spinal fluid coming out of his ears. The friend eventually recovered, he said.

Matt Hankey, 15, pointed out that there's a sign saying "skate at your own risk" in the park.

"If you want to wear a helmet, wear a helmet," he said. "I am very strongly against the helmets."

His friend, 18-year-old Luke Gilmore, said helmets make your head sweat and are just a hassle. "It sounds cheesy, but it makes you kind of bubble-headed," he said.

Under the ordinance, skaters 12 and older, including all adults, could receive the citation directly. For ages 12 to 16, the citation also could be given to a parent or legal guardian.

For ages 11 and younger, the citation would be issued to a parent or legal guardian.

The police receive occasional reports of injuries at the skate park, and Johnson pointed out that a skater died in Ashland last year.

Tom Allred, owner of Jack's Board House in Medford, said he always encourages skaters to use head protection, and anyone coming into his store is encouraged to get a helmet along with a board.

"I would rather see everyone wear a helmet, for sure," he said. "If you get a bad enough fall, you're not going to be skating anymore. You could be a vegetable for the rest of your life."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email

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