Skate Board Ban Lifted, On Condition
By Anne McKay Garris
The youngsters were the most effective lobbyists at City Hall, last week. You could tell they were there about the skate board issue, not only because they had, some how, believed they should bring the boards with them, but because their t-shirts declared, "Skate Boarding Is Not A Crime" or, "Don't Ban Skate Boards."
The so-called ban on skate boarding in Clearwater consisted of two blocks of a crowded sidewalk on Mandalay Avenue and along the newly finished Beach Walk on south Clearwater Beach.
Arguments from the skate boarders ranged from the most illogical, "Skate boards are a natural thing in Southern California," to, "When you cross Memorial Causeway bridge you are in another world with a personality all its own."
More mature voices warned of the danger to skate boarders who have formed a habit of playing "chicken" with the cars on Mandalay Avenue, zooming across in front of them. "I am concerned someone will get seriously hurt if this doesn't stop," said Clearwater Beach resident, Ron Delp. He asked the city to enforce the State law which does not allow skateboarders in the street.
One of the adults suggested the city set aside a skate boarding place on Memorial Causeway with the skate boarding enthusiasts providing financing for development of the site and volunteer adult supervision.
City staff reported there had been 100 warnings issued on the Beach and very few citations. If a citation is issued, the fine is $88.
Parks and Recreation Director, Kevin Dunbar, informed the Council members that the use of the city's skate boarding venue at Ross Norton Park had increased since the recent public meeting with skate boarders on the Beach. At this meeting, the city officials repeatedly urged the young skate boarders to use the park especially equipped for their enjoyment of the sport. They expressed approval that some of the youngsters had decided to go to Ross Norton.
After explaining to the young audience that $50,000 worth of damage had already been done to Beach Walk by skate boarders, the Council made it clear that, whether or not the rules were eased, the damage would have to stop.
"You need to tell your fellow skateboarders they are breaking the law when they damage property," said City Councilmember George Cretekos.
Councilmember John Doran explained why a general ban was needed in lieu of "catching the bad ones," as one skateboarder suggested. "We are already in a budget crunch," said Doran, "We can't afford to pay policemen to sit and watch for skateboarders doing damage to city property."
In the end, after considerable discussion, the Council voted to allow skateboarding on the west side sidewalks of Mandalay Avenue, but not on the smaller sidewalks on the east. They also agreed to allow skateboarding on the west sidewalks of Beach Walk, other than Sundial Plaza, but not on the east.
However, they made it unanimously clear that this decision would be rescinded if there continued to be a problem, with damage or discourtesy to pedestrians,
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