Skateboard law shows need for expanded facilities

"You can't trust anyone over 30." How many times during the Vietnam Era, did we hear this battle cry? The adults, the policy makers, the people in power were making decisions that were causing those in my generation to be sent to war and in some cases to die. Well, now I am over 30, and I find myself in the position of helping to set policy that will directly affect those who are under thirty. Fortunately, this situation does not have the gravity of a war.

Last fall, the Redevelopment Citizens Advisory Committee was petitioned by downtown property and business owners to address the problems caused by skateboarders and in-line skaters in the downtown corridor. They described skaters leaping off of ATM machines, twirling off planters, and running into or intimidating elderly pedestrians. They also reported that the recent improvements at Telegraph Square were being destroyed due to skater activity.

It has been a few years since I located some scrap lumber, took my roller skates apart, and nailed them on to a board to make my own skateboard of sorts, but I have never forgotten how much fun I had trying to master the motion. Obviously, skates, boards or in-line, have come light years since the Pleistocene period of my youth.

In spite of my early "skater" phase, I became a part of the over-30 crowd, and joined my fellow the Redevelopment Advisory Citizens Committee members in expressing concerns over safety, liability, and preservation of property. Our solution was to propose an ordinance that would prohibit skating on the sidewalks in the downtown business district. After all, the skaters can use the skate park at Mills Park. The ordinance was placed on the agenda for our February meeting and lo and behold, skaters attended the meeting.

It seems that there is another point of view on this issue. The skaters informed the Committee that the reason that they skate downtown is because the skate park is too crowded, it is not challenging enough, and it does not provide the type of terrain that they require to prepare for competitions. It sounds like skating at the skate park is like skiing on beginner terrain year after year, tedious to say the least.

In spite of the arguments made by the skater contingency, it was clear that skating downtown was incompatible with the pedestrian use of the area. Accordingly, at our meeting on March 22, 2000, the RACC approved the proposed amendment to the Carson City Municipal Code and recommended passage to the Redevelopment Authority. If approved, the district between Washington Street and Fifth Street, Plaza Street and Nevada Street, will become a "no skating" zone. It be will safer for pedestrians and that is a plus.

An even bigger plus was that the young people came forward and participated in the process. I would encourage them to attend the Board of Supervisors meeting on April 6 when the proposed ordinance will be heard and to continue their efforts to expand and improve the skate park facilities in Carson City.

Likewise, I would encourage the Carson City Supervisors to listen carefully to their requests. We know that by keeping kids busy we can avoid a multitude of mischief and misdemeanors. Skating is what these kids like to do, so let's support them and their sport. Let's find a way to expand our skate park facilities. I believe the cost/benefit of this type of investment is enormous both in a financial sense and in a quality of life sense. Carson City has consistently supported its youth and it has paid off. Let's continue to keep them busy and out of trouble.

Linda E. Johnson is a wife, mother, attorney, a 25-year resident of Carson City and a wanna-be-skater. She has served as vice chair of the Carson City Redevelopment Citizens Advisory Committee since 1995.


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