Empire editorial: Partial skateboard ban a reasonable compromise

Posted: Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Thumbs up to the Juneau Assembly for its ban Monday on the use of skateboards and other such recreational devices at the downtown Marine Plaza Park during the times summer tourist traffic is heaviest.

Although decried by skating enthusiasts as nothing more than a pro-tourism move, it should be seen as a reasonable compromise driven more by safety and common sense than by anything else.

The ban specifically applies to skateboards, in-line skates, roller skates, scooters, coasters and unicycles during the times of heaviest tourist use at Marine Park Plaza. In most cases those times are when cruise ships are in port and their passengers are disembarked and touring the city on cruise-line buses and vans.

Conflicts between skaters and tourists have been debated for months, and the compromise was made possible through the efforts of Assembly members and the local Skateboard Task Force, which is made up of skateboarders, tourism representatives and city officials.

Because the park, which last year was expanded into a public plaza, is frequently used as a recreation area and as a turnaround and parking area for tour vehicles, it can easily become unsafe not only for tourists - many of whom are elderly - but also for those who are on wheels of their own and are performing stunts and feats of skill.

The ban doesn't outlaw skating and other activities in Marine Park Plaza altogether. Rather, it is a restriction that allows visitors to Juneau to enjoy the park just as local residents do, but without potential safety risks. Skateboarders and others who use the area purely for recreation may still do so, but outside times of greatest traffic and congestion.

On Monday the Assembly also defined more clearly other city landmarks where skaters are prohibited, thus eliminating confusion and needless ticketing of skaters who were unsure of where they are allowed to enjoy their sport.

A big thumbs-up, also, to the Juneau-Douglas High School boys soccer team, which came away unbeaten from a road trip to Spokane last weekend to begin its 2004 campaign.

The boys squad, despite a near-complete turnover of starters from a year ago, defeated Mount Spokane 3-2 on Friday and came away with a tie against Mead on Saturday. The win and the tie followed wins earlier in the week against University and Ferris, and the team's 3-0-1 start has far exceeded the expectations of players and coach Gary Lehnhart.

The Crimson Bears should be eager to extend their win record as they open home play this weekend in their "Spring Fever" tournament.

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