Ordinance would rein in skaters

Posted: Sunday, April 11, 2004

Skateboarders will have to leave Juneau's Marine Park Plaza to the tourists in summer when vans or buses are present, if a proposed city ordinance passes.

The ordinance also would ban roller skates, in-line skates, unicycles, coasters and scooters when tourism passenger vehicles are at the plaza. Skaters also would adhere to new landmarks in the park, although they would not lose skating space.

Skateboarders, tourism officials and others are expected to speak at a public hearing about the ordinance Monday in the Juneau Assembly chambers. The hearing starts at 7 p.m.

"It's the best compromise we could have come up with when taking everything into account," said Kevin Elliott, a skateboarder who sits on the city's Skateboard Task Force. "Nobody gets everything they want, but they get most of what they think is best."

Skaters would rather have some prohibitions than be banned from Marine Park Plaza - the only area open to them downtown, said Kristi West, director of the Zach Gordon Youth Center. She also sits on the task force.

Skating is prohibited any time a commercial passenger vehicle is present in the park plaza, and in the lower portion of the park plaza, from the top of the semi-circular stairs to the Miners' Statue, according to the ordinance. Skating is allowed when a commercial passenger vehicle is not there.

Elliott said skaters likely will not mind that restriction because they would not have much space to skate anyway if tourists and several buses were present.

Landmarks where skaters are prohibited also were changed so skaters and police understand the designations, West said. Previous ordinance language made it unclear where skaters were allowed and resulted in them being ticketed, she said.

The proposed ordinance prohibits skating any time a ship is moored at the Steamship Dock, in the upper portion of the Marine Park Plaza, and from the Marine Park parking garage to the foot of the semi-circular stairs.

A new section of the ordinance was added that would allow skaters on streets or Marine Park Plaza if skating is part of a designated activity for which a city permit has been issued.

"It's clear and it's fair to everybody when low traffic is happening in Marine Park there is no reason why people can't use the park responsibly," West said.

In July 2003, the Assembly defeated a proposed ordinance that would have made skateboarding at Marine Park illegal from May 1 to Sept. 30 so it wouldn't interfere with tourists. The task force held five public meetings from July to September of that year, and presented recommendations to the Assembly Committee of the Whole in October. The city law department suggested that the task force make revisions, and those amendments will be presented Monday.

Skateboards, roller skates, in-line skates and similar devices already are restricted in the downtown business district, on roadways, private property, in the Marine Park parking garage and within six feet of the Fisherman's Memorial in the park.

Kirby Day, director of shore operations for Princess Tours, said he will support the ordinance because the task force worked hard to compromise with the tourism industry.

"I think they made a good-faith effort to put together a good group of skaters and to make it work," Day said. "That area needs to cater to a number of users. As long as it is used sensibly, any user group can enjoy it."

Day was concerned about skateboarders being allowed to skate on benches in the park. That may intimidate tourists, he said, but he is hopeful skateboarders will respect pedestrians. Elliott said skateboarders move around quickly and likely would not pose a problem with bench use.

Elliott and West are considering holding an annual fund-raiser at Marine Park at which skaters would pay a one-day user fee to put on a skating jam. That money would go toward the repair and replacement of park benches. Elliott previously had considered an annual skating fee, but felt it was too cumbersome to use and enforce.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com.

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