Banner Forest dispute boils down to liability

As would be true of any dilemma, there’s reason to be sympathetic to both sides of the controversy embroiling users of Banner Forest.

On the one hand, mountain biking enthusiasts are outraged over a decision to demolish the numerous jumps and hazards volunteers have lovingly constructed throughout the park.

As a multi-use park, they say, bikers have as much right to use the facility as anyone else. And the structures they’ve erected there add value to the park.

One need only run a Google search on the words “Banner Forest mountain biking” to find literally dozens of websites devoted to the sport offering rave reviews of the park, and there’s something to be said for treating a community resource as something more than the “look-but-don’t-touch” nature preserve envisioned by South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido and her supporters.

As one online commenter pointedly noted this week, “No one does anything in South Kitsap. The skateboarders skate in Gig Harbor, the paintballers paintball in Grapeview or Belfair, the soccer players play soccer in Central Kitsap, Gig Harbor, Puyallup, Federal Way — anywhere but here.”

The other side of the coin is that none of the trails and obstacles erected by the bikers was authorized by the county, which owns and oversees Banner Forest, and you simply can’t have people making major revisions to a public resource without approval.

For us, however, the compelling argument in support of the plan to demolish the mountain bike obstacles concerns liability.

As much a badge of honor as it is for most thrill-seekers to sustain minor injuries in the pursuit of their sport, all it would take is one person breaking their neck on an unauthorized teeter-totter to cost the county millions.

Hiking, biking and horseback riding are all popular sports. Unfortunately, these days so is filing frivlolous lawsuits.

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