Stars and stripes
In one last attempt to get Gainesville’s City Council to reconsider an ordinance banning skateboarding from public squares, approximately 30 people — many with their skateboards — showed up to the council’s meeting Wednesday.
Gainesville Realtor William Ferguson asked city officials to consider finding a place in the city for skateboarders to go before completely banning them from public areas. Ferguson said his son was a skateboarder and an honor student, and said he did not believe skateboarders were to blame for recent vandalism downtown. City officials have said in the past that the ordinance would help curb some of the recent vandalism downtown and in the city’s public squares.
“I don’t believe they had (anything) to do with the vandalism that had exactly happened,” said Ferguson said. “... We’ve got some real good kids out there; I think the bad kids you guys are picking on ... they’re the same kids that are causing trouble at the ball games, at the different functions, and I’ve got a good one over there and I’m real proud of him, and I want to help these kids any way we can and give them somewhere to be.”
Still, the council unanimously voted to give the ordinance its final passage with a promise to find a place for skateboarders to ride safely.
The ordinance passed Wednesday prohibits riding animals, bicycles as well as “coasters, roller skates and similar devices” used for self-transportation on public sidewalks and in public squares, public parking lots and decks.
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.
The ordinance does not “limit the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act,” and council members can vote to make exceptions for downtown events.
City officials have said the ordinance may help vandalism that has repeatedly occurred in Roosevelt Square and on the downtown square. Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan said Wednesday that several downtown business owners had complained to him about skateboarders in the downtown area.
But Ferguson said he had spoken to downtown merchants who did not mind the skateboarders.
“I think it’s a mix,” he said after the vote.
Ferguson said he would pursue a Tony Hawk Foundation grant application offered to him by Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard and try to raise private funds to build a skate park.
“We need somewhere for these kids to skateboard,” said Ferguson after the meeting.
As the council voted Wednesday, Mayor Ruth Bruner promised council members would continue to search for places skateboarders could call home.
“Our problem is finances right now. We’ve got some places we’ve identified in town, and we would like to do one as soon as we can, but we just don’t have the funds to do one right now,” she said. “... We do know that this is something you feel strongly about, and we do, too, and want you to have a place to skateboard. ... It just seems to be a problem that we need to solve.”
Chad Shore, who came to support the skateboarders, said after the vote that he wished council members could have seen the positive side of skateboarding rather than banning them from certain areas.
“They just need somewhere to skate. ... Having a local one here has been way past due,” Shore said. “... They’re never going to go away — they’re still going to be here. It’s just going to cause more trouble.”