Skateboarders Arrested On Mandalay
By Anne McKay Garris
It was bound to happen. With Clearwater Beach rapidly becoming "the place to be" for people on skateboards, razor scooters and such, and the summer population increased along Mandalay Avenue, confrontation was definitely a possibility.
Discussion had already taken place at the Clearwater Beach Association meeting about the dangerous actions of skateboarders in the street, playing "chicken" with the cars. Members of the Association were concerned about the danger the young people were putting themselves in.
Then, on July 18, there was an incident in the 400 Block of Mandalay Avenue as a police officer was writing a ticket for a young man who was "grinding" his scooter on the curb. (Grinding is the process of riding a skateboard or scooter on the edge of a curb in a way that causes damage.) A group of juveniles rapidly gathered and one of them, a sixteen-year-old, physically accosted the officer. When his fourteen-year-old friend got into the fray, both young men were arrested, one on charges of battery on a law enforcement officer, the other for resisting arrest without violence.
Officers at the scene estimated the crowd of young skateboarders as around 23 in number. Neither of the young men who were arrested are residents of Clearwater Beach. The fourteen-year-old is not even a resident of Clearwater.
Part of an escalated enforcement of the skateboarding ordinance came about because of a petition sent to the Clearwater City Manager, signed by business owners along Mandalay. The owner of the popular Mandalay Grille submitted the petition, stating that patrons to the sidewalk cafe portion of her restaurant were regularly endangered by speeding skateboards along the part of the sidewalk not taken up by her tables and chairs. Nine other business owners signed the petition.
The City ordinance governing skateboards does not specifically forbid them on sidewalks. It does require them to "yield the right-of-way to any other pedestrians" and not to endanger them in any way.
It also forbids skateboards in any public or private place where signs saying, "No skateboarding," or words to that effect, are posted. The fine for violating the ordinance is $88.
In response to the petition from the merchants, police have posted "no skateboarding" signs in the area near the businesses. Skateboarders are protesting that this is unfair and punishes all of them for the actions of a few.
"Skateboarding is not illegal!" is their motto and rumor has it they, too, have submitted a petition to city hall, asking for the repeal of the skateboard ordinance.
The City however, currently dealing with the cost to repair severe curb damage done by skateboarders in Pier 60 Park and in the Beach Walk area, is more likely to make the ordinance tougher than to repeal it.
City officials offer an alternative to skateboarders in the City's Extreme Skate Park which is located at Ross Norton Park on South Martin Luther King Drive in Clearwater.
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