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Risk management for public entities: Terrain Parks

As municipal spaces continue to be reimagined to accommodate recreational amenities, terrain parks have grown in popularity. Terrain parks provide a recreational course with natural elevations that can be used by patrons both in the warmer months, such as for mountain biking, and in the colder months, such as for snowboarding.
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As municipal spaces continue to be reimagined to accommodate recreational amenities, terrain parks have grown in popularity. Terrain parks provide a recreational course with natural elevations that can be used by patrons both in the warmer months, such as for mountain biking, and in the colder months, such as for snowboarding.

Addressing safety risks is essential for municipal entities when planning and operating terrain parks. As the operator of the terrain parks, municipal entities need to consider a range of risks depending on the design of the park; and many of these risks can be addressed through the implementation of a comprehensive risk management plan to help prevent injury, severe harm, or death.

The following guidance highlights key areas of consideration when developing and implementing a risk management plan for terrain parks. It should not be seen as an exhaustive list and should be used in conjunction with your internal policies and procedures as well as in compliance with local laws and regulations.


Operators will need to appropriately design the terrain park and its features (for example, trails, jumps, and half-pipes) to encourage safety for its patrons. This should include careful consideration to the following:

  • Enclosures and visual markers
    • Install fencing or other barriers to control entry and exit to the terrain park
    • Place visual markers such as ribbon or rope alongside boundaries of park trails
    • Install visual markers such as signage at the following locations:
      • Collision hazards
      • Top of the park trail
      • Bottom of the park trail
      • Intersection of park trails
      • Slow zones
  • Jumps, jibs, and landings
    • Consider the following elements when designing your park’s features:
      • Approach slope
      • Approach length
      • Jump length
      • Jump width
      • Jump ramp curvature
      • Landing length
      • Landing width
      • Flow between features
  • Place flags at jump take-off locations so patrons can assess wind direction.

Inspection and maintenance

Terrain park operators need to establish a comprehensive maintenance program that outlines protocols for regular inspections throughout the park to identify safety hazards, as well as how to dispatch any damages requiring repairs or replacement. This program should include mechanisms on how to do inspections and how to log the findings. Operators should consider building the following elements into their maintenance program:

  • Inspection
    • Establish an inspection policy, which should outline the required frequency of inspections and activities taken to repair, remove, and reinstate damaged or defective park features or equipment.
    • Conduct regular inspections of the park, features, and equipment before, during, after operating hours to verify that everything is in safe working condition:
      • Check all park features or equipment for excessive wear and tear
      • Repair or remove any damaged or defective park features or equipment
      • Post signage advising patrons if park feature or equipment is unavailable for use and/or under repair
      • Test and maintain all park features and equipment prior to making available for use
    • Confirm handrails, barriers, railings are sturdy (applies to accessibility and security measures in addition to park features)
    • Remove or fix any slip, trip, or fall hazards
    • Remove any garbage, broken glass, protruding objects (for example, chain link fence, fence screens), and other debris
    • Make sure park lighting is projecting appropriate level of lumens/brightness towards targeted areas, such as walkways and elevation
    • Maintain high-usage areas (for example, entrances, exits, stairs)
  • Maintenance
    • Dispatch any identified damages that need to be repaired or replaced
    • Inspect any work previously dispatched to be repaired or replaced prior to use
    • Log all inspections and findings as outlined in the program
    • Establish a centralized documentation repository to house the inspection reports as well as personnel records, emergency response training completions, and first aid kit maintenance


Operators should have the appropriate signage at the terrain park entrance and key locations throughout the park to inform patrons of the following:

  • Restricted activity
    • No horseplay
    • No alcohol consumption
    • No motorized equipment (for example, motorbikes, and snowmobiles)
  • Safe use of terrain park
    • Unsupervised park — Patrons assume own risk
    • Exclusion of Liability (see example:
    • Features of the park (for example, rails, jumps, and half-pipe)
    • Difficulty levels of features (for example, low, medium, and high)
    • Trail types and ratings (for example, freeride and technical; beginner, intermediate, and advanced)
    • Recommend use of protective equipment (for example, helmets)
    • Patron etiquette and conduct
    • First aid station
  • Hours of operation
  • Garbage and recycling area
  • Emergency contact information:
    • Emergency services
    • Maintenance request

Emergency Procedures

Operators will need to design a response plan that clearly outlines the steps to take in case of an emergency incident. The emergency plan needs to be clearly documented and be readily accessible. The appropriate training must be provided to staff. The activation of the emergency plan will require approval from an individual from list of pre-approved roles (for example, supervisor or manager); this individual will also assume the role of incident commander. This incident commander will provide overall supervision and direction regarding the implementation of the emergency management plan.

  • Emergency Plan
    • Establish a plan that outlines response activities for emergencies ranging from minor, such as simple first aid, to major, such as trauma. It should contain specific procedures to address the following situations:
      • Medical
      • Weather (for example, poor visibility or strong winds)
      • Evacuation
    • The emergency response plan should address the following:
      • Roles and responsibilities of staff
      • Required emergency and safety equipment
      • Actions to contact emergency services
      • Actions to contact other relevant parties, such as family members and supervisory staff
      • Approach to addressing media inquiries
  • Training
    • Provide all staff with a copy of the emergency response plan
    • Provide all staff with training on the emergency response plan, including their specific roles and responsibilities
    • Provide all staff with refresher training on an annual or seasonal basis and document completion of training in your centralized repository
  • Availability
    • Make sure the emergency response plan is readily available and accessible to all staff
      • Have the emergency response plan available through electronic and print formats
      • Mark the emergency response plan in a distinct color, such as a red binder, so it is instantly recognizable to staff

First Aid

Operators will need to supply first aid kits available for use by staff, volunteers, and patrons. In addition, operators will need to conduct regular inspection of the first aid and safety equipment available at the terrain park and if the terrain park is staffed, confirming that the appropriate staff are trained in first aid response.

  • Locate all first aid kits in easily accessible areas in the terrain park
  • Regularly check that all first aid kits are stocked and in good condition
  • Track the maintenance of the first aid kits in the centralized respository
  • Develop a roster of staff required to hold active first-aid training certification, including knowing how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED)
  • Track the currency of all personnel’s certifications and require them to take recertification training and provide updated documentation in order to maintain employment at the facility


Municipal entities must design and operate their terrain parks in a manner that helps keep all patrons safe. Through the development and implementation of a comprehensive risk management plan, measures can be put in place to help prevent injury, severe harm, or death and provide patrons with an enjoyable and safe experience all-year round.

If you have questions, please contact your Marsh representative.