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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Date: June 9, 2004
Byline: Marybeth T. Hagan


Colorizing LOVE Park

SKATEBOARDING advocates who want to spin their wheels again in LOVE Park need more than money to dismantle Mayor Street's barriers to their passion.

California based DC Shoes offered the city $1 million over 10 years to cover skateboarding damages if the park is reopened to boarders. Street stubbornly refuses to even consider this offer from a corporation with skateboarding interests. The heavy wooden benches and oversized cement planters, both killjoy obstructions added by the Street administration to uproot skaters from LOVE Park in 2002, will remain.

If money won't warm the mayor's heart to the sport that brought enthusiasts from Upper Darby to London to the city so that they could skate LOVE Park or attend two years worth of ESPN-televised X-Games featuring the sport, what will?

By flashing back to the early 1990s, the skateboarding set might find a clue.

"Get off the [Schuykill] river" if you don't open up the sculling scene to more black rowers, then-City Council President Street told the Boathouse Row crew during rants about how their rowing clubs were way too white.

Street's negative reaction produced some positives.

The Fairmount Park Rowing Camp for minority rowers began in 1994. The camp, funded in part by the Dad Vail Regatta, has introduced more than 1,000 children to the sport since its inception, the Inquirer reported.

The Schuykill River Development Council brought the sport on the river alive for Philadelphia public school students with its program to introduce them to sculling. One female participant won a full rowing scholarship to the University of Texas.

Now the Philadelphia Community Boathouse Initiative's Youth Development Program runs five-week summer camps for youngsters "who have historically been excluded from the sport." Corporate donations and grants fund the free camps. Hundreds of children have learned the skills and teamwork that sculling demands since Pennsylvania Rowing Camps, in partnership with Temple University, began operating the first program in 2000.

So what's all this Schuykill rowing got to do with skateboarding in LOVE Park?

Like scullers on the river, most skateboarders spotted on city streets or toting boards on trains from the suburbs into the city are white. This observation might have something to do with Mayor Street's point of view. Perhaps the edgy skateboarding scene strikes the mayor, who sincerely empathizes with folks dealt a lousy hand in life, as exclusive.

If skateboarders focused less on their desires and opened up their brotherhood to those who might not have had the opportunity to be exposed to the sport, if advocates created programs to introduce minority children to skateboarding, if proposals were made for free summer camps that provided skateboards, helmets and pads along with lessons heavily laden with safety tips at the park, then maybe the mayor would listen.

By sharing their passion for air with those without means to take them there, skateboarding advocates could add more than enchantment to the legend of LOVE Park.

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