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Gainesville to curb downtown skateboarding
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The Gainesville City Council on Thursday also discussed:
  • Moving water meter readings to a “fixed-based” system in which data on water use could be downloaded to a server in the Public Utilities Department.
  • Accepting a grant from the state Environmental Protection Division that would allow the city to restore a portion of Flat Creek in Midtown.
  • The future Midtown greenway. City officials expect to be able to begin construction in July on the greenway over a recently acquired portion of CSX railway.
Ashley Fielding

Gainesville officials are looking to keep skateboards off the downtown square and the city’s new downtown parking deck.

Since the beginning of the year, city officials say they have battled vandalism downtown, some of it caused by skateboarders.

Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard presented the City Council with an ordinance at its work session Thursday that will specifically prohibit riding animals and bicycles as well as “coasters, roller skates and similar devices” used for self-transportation in the downtown square, public courtyards and public parking lots and decks. Riding bikes and skateboards is already prohibited on sidewalks in the city limits.

“Skateboarding on the square — I mean, they’re tearing the bricks up, they’re riding the rails,” said Gary Kansky of the city marshal’s office. “...I’ve caught them, I don’t know how many times, on the square. I could say at least 15, 20 times last year.”

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.

Sheppard said the ordinance will address the vandalism.

“Right now, we just really limit it on roadways and sidewalks, and we’re just not really specific about the other areas,” Sheppard said. “And that’s some of the problem that we’re getting into with the enforcement, so we’re getting damage and the vandalism, we just don’t have everything specifically laid out to allow the officers or (Kansky) to come in and enforce them.”

The proposal was met with little resistance from the four City Council members present at the meeting. Councilman George Wangemann was absent.

The only question was how to provide a place for skateboarders in Gainesville.

“But where can skateboarders go?,” Mayor Ruth Bruner asked.

“Well, I guess that’s kind of one of the problems,” Sheppard said.

While the ordinances prohibit skateboarders from public areas, skateboarders can still use private facilities, Sheppard said. Kansky said public skateboard facilities seemed to curb vandalism problems in other communities.

“...Everybody says ‘liability,’ but it’s working in other cities, and if we don’t get one here — I think Hall County talked about one up on North Hall area — but that’s North Hall area. ... People here, local, they’re not going to go all the way up there,” Kansky said.

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