Monday, July 26, 2010
WHY WE MADE THE DECISION TO PUT A “NO SKATEBOARDING” SIGN ON VETERANS PLAZA
Skateboarding on Veterans Plaza has become the subject of much heated debate. The skateboarding community has embraced the Plaza as a place to skateboard. This has created tension in our community among many of our community members. There is no easy or perfect solution to this situation. Different groups in our community have very different opinions of “what is the right thing to do”. We have listened to many voices. We have had countless conversations and sought input from all segments of the community.
Our decision may not be the perfect decision; but, hopefully, it is a decision that most community members can live with. We commit to continue dialoging with all community members wanting to do so. Some issues remain unresolved – and we want to continue working on those issues.
We want to make sure that Veterans Plaza is a place welcoming of all community members. The Plaza is a place for all to come to, to gather, to enjoy. It is our public square. All community members should feel equally comfortable and equally welcomed in this shared space.
We all agree that skateboarding is a good, healthy activity. Our skateboarding community includes some of our finest youth, adults, and children of all ages. We want our skateboarding community to embrace Veterans Plaza. However, the activity of skateboarding itself is simply not an acceptable activity on the Plaza. The same could be said for many other perfectly good, healthy activities that other community members may engage in elsewhere. The activities themselves are ok - but not on the Plaza… Again, all community members are welcome on the Plaza. However, the activities that community members engage in on the Plaza must be regulated.
The activities that community members sharing the space engage in on the Plaza should be activities that are embracing of other community members. Of course, criminal activity – or activity that is intentionally disruptive and/or destructive - has no place on our Plaza and will be dealt with expediently. (Let’s be clear: Skateboarding is neither a criminal activity nor intentionally disruptive or destructive.)
Activities that are unintentionally disruptive or destructive are more difficult to deal with, and pose a different challenge. Beyond that, even activities that claim a particular part of the Plaza for exclusive daily use by a segment of the community can create unwarranted tension among community groups with different interests.
In the short time since the Plaza opened, skateboarding on the Plaza has been viewed by some as a harmless, welcomed ‘free entertainment’. This has been evidenced by the crowds of ‘spectators’ seating around the steps of the ice-rink enjoying the skateboarders doing their thing. Others have seen it as a hindrance to their enjoyment of the Plaza because of the constant loud pounding noise of skateboards on the cement and the use of the brick and pavers areas as a runway to jump onto the ice-rink area, impeding pedestrian flow. Many skateboarders have respected this and have limited their skateboarding to the ice-rink area. However, not all skateboarders have embraced this limitation.
An unfortunate unintentional consequence of skateboarding on the Plaza is the physical damage being caused to the facility. Skateboarding on the Plaza has –unintentionally - caused damage to the handrails; has already begun to wear down the wooden benches; and have chipped away some of the concrete steps. We are sure that it is not the intent of the skateboarders to cause this damage. Yet, allowing the activity of skateboarding everywhere on the Plaza inevitably leads to damage of certain parts of the facility. Most skateboarders have respected staying away from the rails and benches. However, it is simply impossible to monitor or regulate this on an on-going basis, or get this message to all new skateboarders consistently in time to avoid this unintended damage.
The safety of the skateboarders is another issue. The Plaza was simply not designed as a skate park. Therefore, skateboarders have ingeniously found ‘challenges’ that may put them at risk of serious injury. Some have tried to ‘jump’ from the wall above the ‘skatehouse’, which is at least 10 feet tall. This is simply a very dangerous thing. Again, consistently and successfully regulating this activity goes well beyond the scope of what the operation of this Plaza was ever intended to be.
Fortunately, as of Friday, July 30th , a new skate spot opens in Woodside Park, less than ½ mile from Veterans Plaza (a comfortable 5 minute ‘skateboard’-walk away.) This new skate spot is adjacent to other athletic opportunities, including basketball, handball, and tennis – as well as areas in which to simply sit and enjoy the ambiance. Additionally, there is a skate park being planned in Takoma Park, about a mile south of Veterans Plaza.
We understand that some may view the Woodside Park new skate spot as an incomplete solution. If you feel this way, we want to continue working with you on a broader, more comprehensive solution to the issue of skateboarding in Silver Spring. If you have questions, concerns, or suggestions, (or want to get together as a group) please contact me anytime. To start, I invite you to come by the Civic Building this Wednesday, July 28th at 6:30 p.m. to discuss ‘where we go from here’.
Reemberto Rodriguez, Director
Silver Spring Regional Center
Posted by Reemberto Rodriguez, Sr. at 9:59 AM