The LOVE Park Controversy
|Picture courtesy of|
Philadelphia City Paper
|Professional skateboarder Kerry Getz floating above Mayor John Street, in a promotional picture for the 2001 X-Games, taken in LOVE Park|
LOVE Park (JFK Plaza) was built in the 1960s at the eastern terminus of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. It has become a mecca of skateboarding and one of Philadelphia's most cherished spaces.
Often called one of the three finest skate parks in the world, LOVE Park was a major reason that ESPN's X Games extreme sports tournament decided to make Philadelphia its home for two years. Tourists and skate enthusiasts from around the world traveled to Philadelphia just to see LOVE Park.
In 2002 Mayor John Street renovated the park, enforced a skateboarding ban, added a permanent police watch and a fine of $300 for skateboarding. The City's renovations did not make LOVE Park unskateable. If skateboarding were legalized today the park would still be one of the world's foremost skate spots.
LOVE Park is a precious, spontaneous space that gives a city identity and a sense of place. Business people enjoyed lunching around the fountain, watching the skateboarders. Neighborhood residents felt safe with the constant presence of activity in LOVE Park at night. Parents were pleased that their children found such a wonderful place to socialize and exercise.
LOVE Park defines Philadelphia's image. Young people worldwide knew about LOVE Park and saw it as a representation of Philadelphia's attraction. It was a symbol of the city's potential to attract young people, new jobs and energy that far transcended skateboarding.
Cities today focus on making themselves hip, attracting young people and maximizing the potential of the knowledge-based economy. LOVE Park was the single symbol that defined Philadelphia's image for young people. By returning skateboarding to LOVE Park Philadelphia will send a clear message to the world that it cares about its youth.
The city government has been working on opening a new skateboard park along the Schuylkill River. This new park would be wonderful for skateboarders, but is not a replacement for LOVE Park. LOVE Park is already a symbol in the minds and hearts of this city's residents. Philadelphia's youth need the other skate parks around the city, with LOVE Park as their anchor in the center of town.
LOVE Park was the one symbol that made Philadelphia cool and noteworthy to the rest of the world. By returning skateboarding to LOVE Park Philadelphia will revive its energy and excitement.