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Gainesville council says no to skateboarding downtown
Ordinance aimed at reducing vandalism
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Gainesville’s elected officials took the first step Tuesday toward banning skateboarders from the city’s public areas.

In a unanimous vote, the City Council gave initial approval to an ordinance that will specifically prohibit riding animals, bicycles as well as “coasters, roller skates and similar devices” used for self-transportation in public squares, public parking lots and decks.

The ordinance will require a second vote of approval, which is scheduled for March 2.

Riding bikes, animals and skateboards already is prohibited on sidewalks in the city limits, but the ordinance extends the prohibition to public areas where people have been known to skateboard.

Gainesville’s assistant city manager, Angela Sheppard, proposed the ordinance to the council at a work session last week. Sheppard said it may help curb some of the vandalism problems the city has faced for the past few months.

In early January, someone knocked the eternal flame at Roosevelt Square off its pedestal, causing a gas leak. Witnesses told police that skateboarders were in the area at the time.

The incident brought city officials’ attention to the wear and tear skateboards were causing on public property, Sheppard said.

“I think we had been aware of it, but I think, really, the January incident made it clear that we really needed to address the issue,” Sheppard said.

Between her initial discussion with the council Thursday and Tuesday’s council meeting, city officials amended the proposed ordinance to remove any unintended consequences that might bar people using wheelchairs or motorized scooters from the downtown square, Sheppard said. The ordinance council members passed Tuesday included a line that the ordinance would not “limit the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act.”

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