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.
"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."
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