BMX complex is victim of lawyers dedicated to ruining a wholesome activity

The spot is as wholesome as can be, on the banks of a burbling trout stream, amid towering trees, in a remote part of a pleasant and well-maintained township park, where the healthy outdoor activity of young people bothers no one — except those terrorized by ambulance-chasing lawyers.

The youngsters' activity is healthier, that is, than many of the other things they might resort to when sufficiently bored, such as sitting in front of television sets or video games while their bodies are gradually acclimated to a future of arterial sclerosis and other forms of rot.

"An impressive BMX bicycle track in the woods," The Morning Call reported Thursday, now has Lehigh Township, near the base of Blue Mountain in Northampton County, "scrambling to figure out if its insurance would cover any liability in the event of an injury."

"Liability" is a nice way to describe what happens when contingency-fee lawyers find something that may benefit or provide joy to many, and set out to enrich themselves by destroying it if just one person stubs a toe or is otherwise harmed — even if the harm results from a completely voluntary willingness to take risks.

The story said that at a township meeting on Tuesday, resident Ron Shaw was upset that officials put up "No Bicycles" signs at the BMX track. "Kids have been down in that park doing bike jumps well over 25 years," he was quoted as saying. "Every kid in the neighborhood plays down there. They keep it clean, they take care of it."

Township Supervisor President Darryl Snover, it was reported, said the township is having its insurance carrier check to see if there's a way to save the BMX track, perhaps by forming an organization that could purchase its own liability insurance.

I understand that's the standard approach, although I cannot escape the feeling that better advice was provided by William Shakespeare in "Henry VI." Lawyers always say Shakespeare really meant the "kill all the lawyers" line as a compliment, and I hereby declare that I do not, specifically, advocate anything along the lines of what Dick the Butcher said.

It's just that I understand how Dick felt, and he probably would've felt even stronger about it if he saw what was going on in America today. Personally, I'd be satisfied if they enacted a law providing only for it to be a felony to function as a contingency-fee lawyer. The death penalty is excessive.

In any event, I was drawn to Lehigh Township's Indian Trail Park so I could see the liability-threat BMX track for myself.

If this was built by kids, somebody ought to hire them to build a few other things.

There are dozens of structures made of dirt, some 6 feet high, designed to launch dirt bikes into the air and then make a safe landing down the lee side of another structure. One mound was reinforced by a large section of tree trunk.

At one end of the complex, a wood platform stands 12 feet off the ground, anchored to trees. A ramp descends from the platform and you can see how it launches BMX riders into a series of jumps, or around a big 180-degree berm.

I saw no litter at all, no sign of unsavory partying, and there was no gratuitous damage to trees and other natural features, except for trenches that apparently were the sources of the dirt for the bike jumps.

The only ugly things I saw were the two red and white "No Bicycles" signs at the site, making me wish I had known about the track before the fear of lawyers destroyed their fun. This is something I'd pay to see when the cyclists were in action.

Elsewhere in the park, another sign offered a "$500 reward leading to the arrest and conviction of persons vandalizing this property." Directly above that sign was another sign that originally said, "No dogs allowed," but had been vandalized to say, "No church allowed." I'm not exactly sure what that's all about, but I can say I'd prefer the BMX riders to dogs any day.

At the township's municipal building two or three miles away, Township Manager Alice Rehrig said the "No Bicycles" signs are "a temporary measure" and the BMXers may be allowed to ride once again, "just as soon as we see if things work out with the insurance company."

In the 25 years that they have been jumping their bikes at that complex, I asked, has anybody been hurt?

"Not that I'm aware of," Rehrig said. "[But] we have to make sure our insurance will cover any type of a claim."

It seems that the lawyers, I observed, have screwed up yet another form of fun.

"That's where the concern comes from by the board [of supervisors]," she said.

Rehrig said she previously had been unaware of the BMX complex, but took a look at it this past week. "I was amazed at what they could do," she said of the construction. "They put a lot of time and effort down there."

The youngsters also put in a lot of time with healthy exercise and fresh air.

There is risk in any physical activity, as I argued on Friday, but the harm caused to young people by the deprivation of fun and exercise far outweighs that risk. If the contingency-fee lawyers get their way, they'll have everybody put in an induced coma as a way of keeping us safe.

Where is Dick the Butcher now that we really need him?

paul.carpenter@mcall.com 610-820-6176

Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays

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