Make parades safer for everyone

May 24, 2013 09:14 am

First, I would like to congratulate the Oregon Women in Timber who organized the Ag and Timber Twilight Parade on a successful event. As someone who makes his living in the timber industry, I know firsthand the importance of this vital industry to our community. 

As an elected official, I also know the importance of protecting the public and keeping people informed. I appreciate the statements in the media from members of Oregon Women in Timber for their understanding of our safety concerns and liability requirements for parades. I also know that many people in the community don’t understand why they chose not to have the parade in La Grande this year. 

The City of La Grande has had an ordinance for several years prohibiting the throwing of candy and other things from the vehicles in parades for safety reasons. The safety concerns are real. A fatality in a nearby community, along with several close calls, prompted the City to pass the ordinance. I myself had a close call when an adult ran out in front of my vehicle during the Ag and Timber Parade two years ago. Getting compliance with the requirement not to throw things has been virtually impossible, and so the City took the added step last year to require participants sign an acceptance of
liability form that makes it clear that they are responsible for following the rules that are in place to keep people safe. 

By pointing out to those who are participating that things like throwing candy are prohibited and reinforcing that they are liable if they break those rules, we are hoping to make these events safer for everyone. I think we all agree that no event is worth a tragedy.

We have had eight parades since we started the new procedure. In each case, the organizers signed a parade permit request that includes a statement accepting liability for those participants that do not sign individual releases. 

The Ag and Timber Parade organizers were worried that they would not be able to get all participants to sign the form and were not comfortable signing accepting the added responsibility.

I do know that in some cases other parade organizers signed accepting responsibility on behalf of the participants and obtained insurance to protect themselves rather than getting everyone to sign the individual releases. 

I think we were all sad to hear that the organizers decided not to hold the parade in La Grande this year. The City of La Grande is well aware of the tremendous contributions of the ag and timber industries to our community, and I am disappointed that the organizers chose to change the venue of their wonderful parade. 

It is my hope that with a better understanding of what is needed from their participants that they will be able to bring the parade back to La Grande next year.

Daniel Pokorney is mayor of La Grande.