published Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Skaters want park in Fort Oglethorpe

Audio clip

Sean Pickens

Some skateboarders in Fort Oglethorpe are pushing for the city to pay for a skate park, saying they should have a place where they can skate legally without fearing police or business owners.

"Skateboarding is essentially illegal," said Scott Stone, owner of Xtreme 180 Sk8 Shop on Battlefield Parkway. "They fine you. They harass you. There are stereotypes based on the way you look. People are failing to recognize that it is a legitimate sport."

Fort Oglethorpe officials said a city ordinance bans skateboarding because skaters damage private and city property and are a hazard to people who want to use public sidewalks and parks.

  • photo
    Staff photo by Danielle Moore/Chattanooga Times Free Press Sean Pickens, a skater for more than 30 years, practices with friends on the half-pipe located in the basement of Xtreme 180 Sk8 Shop in Fort-Oglethorpe, Ga. Mr. Pickens, along with other skaters at the shop, is trying to get a new public skate park in the Chattanooga area.

"They get a little bit wild with their tricks," Mayor Ronnie Cobb said. "I don't know if (allowing skateboards) would violate other people's rights to walk sidewalks."

The city can't afford to build a park for skaters and, even if it did put up the money, there aren't enough skaters in the area to warrant the cost, Mr. Cobb said.

"We are struggling just to upgrade our ballfields," the mayor said. "I'm not sure it would serve even a small percentage of the population."

There also are liability fears, officials said.

Public skateboard parks have been a trend in major cities and some smaller ones. Nashville, Atlanta and Knoxville all have parks with concrete ramps for skaters. Chattanooga and Athens, Tenn., also have public skate parks.

Supporters say cities without skate parks essentially become skate parks themselves.

"We are going to skate, no matter what," said Sean Pickens, a 32-year old skater who owned Popi's Skate Shop and is spearheading the initiative to bring a public skate park to Northwest Georgia.

The group is asking for a 200,000-square-foot concrete park free and open to all skaters, he said.

Mr. Stone, who once a week uses his shop for a Christian ministry that mentors skaters, said he thinks Fort Oglethorpe leaders resist the idea because they don't understand the culture.

"People have always associated drugs and punk and anarchy with skating," he said. "I think we have broken away from that. There are a lot of kids, poor kids and rich kids, bad kids and good kids."

SKATE PARK LOCATIONS

There are no public skate parks in Catoosa County. The closest public skate park is in Chattanooga. The closest public skate park in Georgia is 137 miles away in Dacula, Ga.

Source: Sean Pickens

Young skaters say they are drawn to skating because it helps them learn discipline, focus and how to express themselves.

"It is a way to escape from everything," said Jordan Sullivan, an 18-year-old student at Georgia Northwestern Technical College. "We just want somewhere to skate legally."

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Catoosa planning session draws several suggestions

Article: Athens advances downtown skateboarding ban

Article: Tennessee: Skateboard ban rolled out again

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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cgilligan said...

Suggesting "there aren't enough skaters in the area to warrant the cost" is a common cop-out from politicians who are set in their ways and who tend to listen to parks and rec personnel who are likewise set in their ways.

<p>Skatepark.org has some great information and a simple formula (Skatepark Adoption Model - the SAM) for determining how much skatepark a community needs: http://www.skatepark.org/skatepark-adoption-model-step-by-step.html

The SAM was created by skatepark advocates, parks and rec professionals, city planners and professional skateboarders to provide a rational and scientific approach to skatepark planning.

I would agree that a 200,000 sq-ft facility is overkill for Ft. O. Maybe that's a misprint and should be 20,000 sq-ft? Probably still overkill for the area.

Ft O has a 2008 population of 9,663. Using the SAM, here's a suggestion: 9,663 x .046 = 444.5 skateboarders in Ft O 444.5 x .25 = 111 regular skateboarders in Ft O 111 x 1.5 = 166.5 sq-ft of skateboarding terrain needed for the city -- that's just a small miniramp.

I'd suggest the Ft O skaters pursue skatepark planning with the county as well as the city. Many skaters in the East Ridge-Ringgold-Chickamauga area will use the skatepark.

Ft O is a somewhat strange case, as the border city is quite small in population (though growing rapidly). Ft O facilities serve a much wider audience than just the city population. Ft O is essentially a small town surrounded by rapidly growing bedroom communities. I worked at the Ft O swimming pool in the late 80's, and I'd say that facility was far too large to serve a (then) population of 6000... it served the entire surrounding area and much of the county and was consistently packed during the summer.

Also, Ft O is a destination city and tourist gateway to the National Park. These extenuating factors would suggest Ft O could support a small skatepark, on the order of 2500 sq-ft. I've seen small tourist towns in Oregon, Idaho and Washington with proportionately large skateparks.

March 18, 2010 at 3:34 p.m.
Nishi said...

This letter is to mp37421. You're only 19? After reading your comment about the proposed skate park in Ft. o., It sounds like you may have some serious mental issues regarding, "You used to skate." People w/attitudes like yours are usually the one's causing the problems for children who enjoy the challenge of being able to master the board. I believe you’re a "Poser." You want to be a good skater, but you don't want to put any effort in becoming one. Maybe you're envious of the talent these kids have and just riding a bicycle w/out training wheels is a challenge for you. There are other sports you may be interested in, like, playing games on the internet where it's safe and no one can see your make a fool of yourself for failing. So, why don't you adjust your attitude, buy yourself a new skateboard (From Popi's, of course!) Fall off, then laugh because you're having fun and don't give a Rat's Ass what other people think. How many times do you think Sean fell off his board before he mastered the trick? Don't just sit there! Before you get too old to enjoy life, get off your lazy ass and stop your whining! Nishi

March 23, 2010 at 7:46 p.m.
HiDef said...

"Skateboarding should be illegal everywhere unless the place they're skating at is specifically designated for that said use."

Hence the reason they would like the city to consider building a skate park...

Additionally, do you think these skateboarders and their parents possibly pay taxes too?

March 23, 2010 at 8:15 p.m.
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