Assembly postpones decision on skateboard ban

City to revisit issue after committee of skateboarders, tourism representatives meet, provide suggestions

Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2003

The Juneau Assembly voted Monday night to table a proposed change to a city ordinance that would have banned skateboarding in Marine Park, the last legal skateboarding spot in downtown Juneau.

"We need to bring the skateboarders back to the drawing board and really take a look at what we need to do to bring the user groups together with others," said Assembly member Jim Powell. "I actually think it's a great opportunity for this community to make the downtown more of a residential area."

The Assembly members voted to reconsider the ordinance after a committee made up of skateboarders, downtown business people and cruise ship representatives could meet and provide suggestions.

The proposed revision to city code would have prohibited skateboarding in Marine Park during the summer. Skateboarding already is banned on most downtown streets during tourist season and in Marine Park when cruise ships are here. Juneau has one skateboard park in the Mendenhall Valley.

Representatives of the cruise ship industry and Assembly members who support the revision say downtown boarders endanger pedestrians and will damage benches and curbs in the new Marine Park and Steamship Wharf.

The Assembly heard more than an hour of testimony Monday night, the majority from people against the ordinance change. On more than one occasion, Mayor Sally Smith had to remind the audience not to applaud in support.

Many compared skateboarding to other sports such as basketball and asked why there were not more places to skateboard. Others said the skate park in the Mendenhall Valley was too crowded and didn't provide the challenge of skating on the street.

"By criminalizing skateboarding, all we are doing is making criminals out of kids that want to have a good time," said Jacob Good, 19. "It's my favorite thing to do, and there is nothing that is more fun."

Good said he thought there was support among skateboarders to organize and build a new skateboard downtown.

Ronald Dippold ambled up to the microphone and announced he has lived in Juneau for several decades.

"I'm here to see which one of yous think more of the cruise ships than you do of your own youngsters," he said, squinting at the Assembly. "When was the last time there was a ticket written for a jaywalking tourist? We could fund the whole borough."

Robert Garrison, 82, told the Assembly the skateboarders threaten his safety. He has to get monthly injections to strengthen his bones, he said.

"Young fellows zipping by me, if they broke my ankle I would probably be all through," he said. "A person my age, to break my leg they would probably finish me. I don't think they spend enough time being careful."

Kevin Gullufsen, 13, said outlawing skateboarding in downtown probably wouldn't stop people from skateboarding there.

"People are just so passionate about it," he said.

Local attorney Mary Alice McKeen spoke against the ordinance change.

"To ban an activity there usually has to be clear evidence that the ban is needed. I don't think there is clear evidence that there has been significant harm to property or persons in this case," McKeen said.

Assembly member Jeannie Johnson invited the skateboarders in the room to serve on the ordinance revision committee.

"I have great hopes for what happens when people sit down at a table, face to face," she said.

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