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Association & Industry News: Industry News

Urgent Regulatory Challenge in CA

Monday, July 6, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Laura Allured
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California Regulatory Threat

If you own or operate a gym in California, or if you are a vendor that supplies gyms in California, make your voice heard! A new and serious regulatory challenge, Senate Bill 217 has been fast tracked in California. Because of the speed at which this bill was introduced and the schedule of the California legislature you should get in contact with your California state representatives by July 8th. California requires position papers to be uploaded to their electronic portal.


This bill may increase the cost and complexity of operating nearly all youth programs commonly found in a climbing gym. The Climbing Wall Association monitors situations like these, but we cannot do so without your help. Whenever you are aware of legislation like this, or new regulations and rules that affect your gym you should notify us for assistance.


The suggested additional permitting and regulations currently found in SB 217 will apply to all businesses who offer programs and classes to children of all ages for all or part of the year. Senate Bill 217 seeks to create a new definition for “Recreational Camp”. Which is currently defined as:


“Recreational camp” means a site with a program and facilities established for the supervision of children 18 years of age and younger that meets all of the following requirements:

  1. Operates for at least five days during any season of the year.
  2. Operates for profit or non-profit purposes, whether or not a fee is charged.
  3. Serves five or more children who are not members of the family or personal guests of the camp operator.
  4. Is not licensed by the State Department of Social Services as a daycare facility.

(Senate Bill 217, amended in Assembly, June 23, 2020)


Once climbing gyms are deemed to be operating recreational camps, they will be subject to all of the new laws included in this bill. It is the CWA’s recommendation that the definition of recreational camp be amended to exclude classes, sports teams, and school activities. Additionally, the existing legislation for organized camps in HSC §18897 should be amended to include a classification for day camps, which has been an informal understanding in California for over 100 years.


Climbing gyms who are designated as recreational camps will have to be licensed by their local health departments under SB217 and will be subject to numerous new regulations, many of which need improvement to truly meet the needs of both participants and operators. The California Collaboration for Youth has put together a list of concerns, many of which are relevant to climbing gym operations.


Beyond these broad regulations SB 217 deems rock climbing as a high-risk activity and, as such, it is subject to several additional measures. The primary regulations around high-risk activities involve rules about the reporting of incidents and accidents and what duties a camp has in these situations. In addition, climbing gyms would have to train staff on head injuries and concussions as well as provide concussion and head injury information sheets to parents and participants despite the relatively low occurrence of head injuries in climbing facilities.


As a recreational camp there are increased inspection requirements mandated in SB217. Your local health department must make a physical inspection and certify that your facility is not a hazard and that you do not have a “High-risk activity conducted without certified instructors or in a manner hazardous to campers or the general public.” (Senate Bill 217, amended in Assembly, June 23, 2020). It is not clear that local health departments have the background or training to make such an inspection or the capacity to facilitate the number of inspections needed.


The total effects of this bill on youth programs in climbing gyms is unclear, but the impact may be broad and hard to repair. Please take the time to look over this bill and consider how it might affect your normal operations and the climbing gyms that you serve.


Make any concerns known to the California legislature by submitting a position letter via their online portal by July 8th. You may also make your concerns known to your California state representatives. When writing your letter, some possible areas of concern to mention are:

  • The broad definition of “Recreational Camp” that would lump your classes, climbing teams, and coaching programs in with any summer camp operations.
  • The designation of rock climbing as a high-risk activity.
  • The need for increased concussion and head injury training and information for climbing gyms.
  • The inspection of building standards by local health departments.
  • The possibility of climbing walls, or possibly some equipment, to need DOSH approval.
  • The 1 year validity for first aid and CPR certifications - which are typically valid for 2 years.
  • The requirement that new counselors or staff have completed at least one year as a camper.
  • The requirement that camp directors have at least 2 years of administrative experience in a camp.
  • A ban on all cell phone use by staff except for in the case of emergencies.

When writing your letter you can find some tips from the California Assembly on how to create a position letter and what to expect when you make your voice heard.


If you need assistance, please contact the CWA staff with any questions or for help.


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