City bans skaters in park during tourist visits

Critics say tour industry has too much power; proponents say measure is the best compromise

Posted: Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Despite opposition from some skaters, the Juneau Assembly unanimously passed an ordinance Monday prohibiting skateboards and similar devices from the Marine Park Plaza when tourist buses and vans are there.

Passage of the ordinance is the culmination of months of discussion about skater-tourist conflict during heavy summer use periods. It also applies to roller skates, in-line skates, unicycles, scooters and coasters when commercial vehicles are present.

Skateboarder and Skateboard Task Force member Kevin Elliott said the ordinance represented the best compromise among user groups including skaters, tourists and resident pedestrians.

"The skateboarders realize the ability to skate in Marine Park is a privilege and we want to keep that privilege," Elliott said.

Skating in Marine Park is not a privilege, but a right of taxpayers to use public property, countered resident Bob Tkacz.

"This is one of the worst pieces of legislation I've seen in a long time," said Tkacz, who bicycles through the park a half-dozen times a week. He in-line skates in the park occasionally as well.

The city is putting the tourism industry before local taxpayers' needs, he said.

Afterward, Tkacz said he expected the Assembly to pass the ordinance.

"What a surprise," he said. "Cruise ships run this town and big oil runs this state."

Skateboarder Matthew Arnold echoed similar concerns.

"I see Marine Park as a park first and bus turnaround second," he said.

The city expanded Marine Park last year into a public plaza where commercial buses may park during the tourism season.

The city does have a right to restrict use of public property, argued resident Dennis Harris.

Some skaters intimidate pedestrians and could accidentally run into them and cause serious injury, he said.

"Young people don't understand elderly people who fall and may not be able to get out of bed again for a long time," Harris said.

Kirby Day, director of shore operations for Princess Tours, said the task force did a good job of creating a compromise ordinance.

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.

Landmarks where skaters are prohibited also were changed so skaters and police understand the designations. Previous ordinance language made it unclear where skaters were allowed and resulted in their being ticketed. Users would not lose skating space overall.



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