ST. CHARLES, Mo. – The St. Charles Parks and Recreation Department has issued an apology after a claim of “weight-shaming” at the popular water park in Wappelhorst Park.
Signs at the base of the Boomerango water slide make it clear that there is a weight minimum of 100 pounds and a maximum of 300 pounds for a single rider and 400 pounds for a pair. However, the signs make no mention that riders must step on a scale on the boarding platform before being allowed to slide down on the two-person riding tubes.
The Boomerango is a twisting tube slide. Riders splash out of a chute at the bottom with momentum, taking them high up a water-slicked wall before the ride ends in a shallow pool. It’s one of the park’s top attractions.
Kailee Dickey, 28, did not expect the weight to be an issue when she climbed the stairs to ride with her 5-year-old son. She knew about the 400-pound limit. The two of them together were not even within 200 pounds of it, but that was not the overriding concern for Dickey.
“I think that weight is triggering for a lot of people, whether they’re big or small,” she said. “It’s not something that should be shared publicly.”
A worker on the platform gave her the option of either stepping on a scale or stating her weight out loud in front of the group of people waiting in line behind her.
“I told him my weight. People laughed a little bit. Then I went down,” Dickey said. “I cried a little bit. Then I found a manager.”
She said managers understood her concerns but stood by the “weigh-in” policy.
Visitor Jill Rawlings took video of her 7- and 11-year-old daughters riding Boomerango on Thursday. She said she didn’t like the “weigh-in procedure” for her or them.
“There’s a competition between girls already. I would hate for her to see someone regardless, weigh more, weigh less,” Rawlings said. “There’s probably a more confidential way to figure out someone’s weight other than weighing them in front of everyone on the platform up there.”
Several other women said the policy was insulting.
St. Charles Parks and Recreation Director Maralee Britton said the following statements:
We apologize for the embarrassment of the guest announcing their weight. This should not have occurred, and we are correcting the issue with additional staff training and ensuring everyone is stepping on the scale. Operating the slide for the last five years, we have not encountered issues with the scale requirement however, we are understanding of the concerns raised and will review the signage for potential updates. Our goal is to never embarrass anyone and look out for their safety while visiting the Aquatic Facilities. If we have caused embarrassment we apologize as that is not our intent. We take an abundance of precautions to ensure safety of our guests and follow manufacturers guidelines. The Boomerango multi-passenger tube slide has requirements of a 100lb minimum total vehicle weight, a maximum individual rider weight of 300 lbs, and a maximum combined vehicle weight of 400 lbs for two people. Riders must also be at least 42 inches tall. At the slide tower entrance and at the slide flume entrance, signage is posted regarding these rules. For all guests who choose to ride the attraction, it is mandatory the lifeguard weigh each individual on the scale prior to slide usage to ensure the safety guidelines are being followed. As necessary, guests are measured when entering the facility and provided a color-coded wristband for height requirements on the various attractions. We want everyone to have a great experience at our Aquatic Facilities, and we will continue to ensure their safety.
So, the scale policy will remain. Safety is paramount.
“I think it’s hard enough just coming into a water park, let alone being in a swimsuit in front of people,” Dickey said. “Then having to announce how much I weigh when everyone around me weighed less. It was really hard. There has to be a better way to go about it where they’re not publicly humiliating people because what I went through wasn’t fun. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through that.
According to Britton, the water park is in the process of replacing a scale with indicator lights instead of numeric pounds.