City right, but ’boarders can be accommodated
Thursday, July 10, 2014 12:11 AM
Skateboarders and longboarders around here do not seem to be menacing and wayward children. We’ve not noticed any hellions on wheels roaming the streets and zipping by people with criminal or ill-intent. No, they seem to be folks who simply enjoy the thrill of skateboarding or, especially among longboarders, prefer the board as a means of getting from Point A to Point B.
But these youngsters who surf on wheels rather than waves also have an obligation to respect property, public and private. And as such, we find ourselves in the court with the City of Greenwood as it eyes amending its ordinance to ban skateboarding in the Uptown Special Tax District. At the same time, we are sympathetic and think something can be done to accommodate the skateboarders.
Sure, the city’s plan no doubt comes across as harsh, as government quashing the individual’s rights to traverse where he wants to go by any means he chooses. But that’s not the case. Rather, this is a case of the needs of the many outweighing the needs -- or, in this case, the wants -- of the few. Cities regularly have ordinances prohibiting bicyclists from riding on public sidewalks, for several reasons. Sidewalks are intended for pedestrian traffic, not wheeled traffic, with the exception of wheelchairs. A bicyclist zipping past pedestrians and doorways presents an obvious hazard. With skateboards, however, the hazard goes further.
Not only do skateboarders endanger people walking in and out of restaurants and retailers’ stores, they also cause damage to property. How? By doing the tricks skateboarders do. And many of them can do some really impressive tricks, if you don’t already know that. If you don’t know what we are talking about, just visualize the snowboarders you might have watched during the Winter Olympics, only visualize them on wheels. Now, visualize them using storefront windowsills, the Uptown War Memorial’s granite foundation, railings, the Uptown fountain and the like as their launching pads and trick zones. And visualize the potential damage the wheels and boards themselves might cause to paint jobs and the various surfaces.
We do sympathize with the skateboarders. They have no skateboard park available anywhere nearby where they can have some fun and perform their various gravity-defying feats. But again, the needs, rights and safety of the majority must take priority over the needs and wants of the few. There’s no easy solution. Greenwood County had a skateboard park at one time, but it was shuttered. And it was not exactly close to town nor convenient to many of the skateboarders who are not old enough to drive to a park. There also is a liability insurance concern whenever such parks are built and operated by a municipality or county.
There would not be room for such a park where the Uptown Market is to be built, and even if there were it would not fit in with the general plan for the market’s use. It is highly unlikely a skateboard park would be considered as an add-on to the Grace Street Park or Cambridge Park locations.
But perhaps there is an adequate piece of property somewhere near the city central where such a park could be established. We think it’s worth a look, at any rate, because as we said in the beginning, these kids are indeed just that -- kids who are just having fun and working to hone their skills with skateboards. One place immediately comes to mind, and that’s the old R.L. Stevens Recreation Center on Seaboard Avenue. It sits empty and unused.
For all the complaining adults do about kids sitting in the house playing video games and not getting outdoors where they can exercise and get some fresh air, we ought to be able to find a way to not only aid the youngsters who are skateboarding enthusiasts now, but also encourage others to take it up. Skateboarding is a physically demanding sport. Not everyone plays tennis or golf.