On June 8, Mason Owens was playing in a water feature in a local park when the 5-year-old slipped and fell face first on the wet concrete blocks. The fall resulted in cuts above Mason’s eye and across his nose. The injuries required hospital treatment and stitches. It was later reported that Mason had fallen in the adventure playground section of O’Day Park, located within the city of O’Fallon.
After Mason was treated, his mother Stacy Owens said more needed to be done to prioritize safety and prevent similar accidents in the future.
According to O’Fallon Communications Director Tom Drabelle, “The playground was designed as an adventure playground with features designed for children of different ages. There are some features that are more appropriate for older children and some for younger. As with all playground features, parents need to decide which features are appropriate for their children.”
Drabelle also said that in the weeks after the park opened on April 27, the city, “had received some comments from a couple of parents that the surface was a little rough for bare feet, so we had ordered some signs recommending that children wear water shoes while playing on the structure. Those signs were ordered two weeks ago. They were delivered and installed on June 12.”
A few days later on June 14, the attraction’s water feature was being used actively by numerous children of all ages, from toddlers to young teenagers.
Two of the signs erected on June 12 were placed next to the water feature.
However, as of June 14, none of the children at the attraction were wearing shoes, including water shoes. Some wore flip-flops.
So, who bears the responsibility of child safety at local parks? Mid Rivers Newmagazine visited O’Day Park on June 14 and asked parents and visitors to offer input.
Michelle P., of Cottleville, said, “My children are a little older, so I don’t worry as much about them. We even have climbing ropes at home that the children use a lot, and we don’t worry about falls or injuries there. They can fall at home or on the sidewalk. If we thought the water feature was not safe for them, we wouldn’t let them use it.”
Heather R., from Bridgeton, said, “You’re the parent of the kids, so you should decide what they use and what they don’t. This is a great park for kids.”
Angela R., from Wentzville, who also was with her children at the park’s water feature, said, “It’s up to parents to warn kids. We did that on our way here to the park, telling them to be careful. Parents are responsible for their kids. We don’t rely on signs.” She also said, “You should see the kids sliding down the Astroturf hillside on the other side of this playground. They are having a lot of fun.”
Beth F., also from Wentzville, agreed with Angela R. “This is a great park. We wish we had one like this when we were kids.”
When asked about a slide with cut log steps located near the water feature, Beth added that she didn’t have any problem with her children using the piece of equipment and that it did not matter what park signs were present.