A story just broke that has me infuriated, outraged and confused. The parents of Mark Reynolds, the mountain biker who was attacked and killed by the mountain lion at Whiting Ranch Regional Park, are suing the county of Orange stating that county officials “should have reasonably known that the park was dangerous.”
Let’s consider for a moment the sport for which we, along with Mr. Reynolds, have such a passion. It is a sport that is rife with inherent danger and risk. From the too fast descent down a rocky, rutted single track, to trying to skirt the edge of a rain-rutted section washed out fire-road, to ducking a low hanging tree branch when you’re barreling down a hill; our sport not only contains risk it invites it with open arms. With that risk that we invite into our sport arises another: an inherent risk of death.
We don’t really think about it too often but it’s there, ever present, the chance that we might fall off our bikes and crack our skulls; the chance that we could plummet over the side of a cliff; the chance that we could get run over by a car while crossing a road section; and, yes, the chance that we could get attacked, and possibly killed, by some type of animal on some section of wilderness. This is our sport and this is the way we like it.
Now comes this lawsuit which removes all personal responsibility which Mr. Reynolds had and states that, somehow, the county should have protected him from himself. Guess what folks, there are only two ways for the government, in this case, to protect us: 1) they can wipe out the entire mountain lion population in order to make things safe for us humans (forget the fact that we are in their territory, no the other way around) or 2) they can close the park so that no one can use it. Let’s see, considering the money it would cost to defend lawsuit after lawsuit of people getting hurt on trails (gee, that rut caused me to fall shouldn’t have been there…that rock on the edge of the trail that I whacked my knee on was wholly inappropriate…that sandy patch really knocked me off my ride…I’M SUING!) do you think it’s completely outside the realm of possibility that our local trails could get shut down as a result of an irresponsible action such as this?
I feel for Mr. Reynolds’ family, I honestly do. I grieved when I heard about the attack that happened on a trail that I ride at least once a month (at least when it’s not raining all the time.) I donated money to help both victims of this attack with their medical/funeral costs. I even went to the bike rally held at Irvine Park in order to memorialize this rider who – by all accounts – loved this sport as much as he loved anything in his entire life.
Now, instead of feeling sorry for the family, I feel nothing but contempt because they are letting their personal grief and greed undermine the very thing that their son loved doing the most. Through this lawsuit, Mr. Reynolds’ parents are not only attacking the county of Orange, they are attacking every person that make mountain biking a significant portion of their lives; they are attacking the advocates who work tirelessly to keep our trails open; and they are attacking us.
At this point, I’m not quite sure what to do about this besides send this out to every person I know who might care, hope that, somehow, we can reach the people who are about to perpetrate this crime against our sport and, perhaps, get them to reconsider. I didn’t know Mark but, based upon his passion and dedication to this sport that was exhibited throughout his life, my guess is that he would be outraged by his parents’ actions as well.
Regardless of where you live, this is an issue that you should care about because frivolous litigation against those who mange our trails is something that can literally cripple our sport.