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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Date: July 29, 2003
Byline: Carla Anderson


Tasco, Rizzo back skaters in LOVE Park, too

COUNCILWOMAN Marian Tasco and Councilman Frank Rizzo yesterday joined three other city officials who've dared to say that skateboarding just might have a place in LOVE Park.

They're part of a shift that appears to be taking place among the city's leadership on this contentious issue.

City planning director Maxine Griffith will hold a meeting next week to discuss a compromise plan that would bring skateboarders back to the park — a plan I've said could help this aging city reverse its population losses and attract a new generation of young people.

"They'll be meeting with all of the proponents of the plan sometime next week," said Christine Ottow, spokeswoman for Mayor Street.

Not that it's quite time to celebrate yet. Street himself is still committed to building an alternate skatepark near the Schuylkill, Ottow said, despite the fact that, two years after it was promised, plans and funding have yet to materialize.

But Tasco and Rizzo are only the most recent members of City Council to consider the compromise hammered out by some of this city's young activists.

Councilman Rick Mariano already supports skateboarding, as has Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. And Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown is one of the plan's most active proponents on Council.

"I know everyone likes to say it's just suburban kids who skated there, but I'm sure the kids in Philly like to skateboard too," said Rizzo, who once supported the plan to kick skateboarders out of LOVE Park.

"If we can end up with something that allows kids to enjoy themselves there, keeps them from destroying the private property that surrounds the park and also keeps it safe for the folks who want to sit there and eat their lunch, then I think we've hit a home run," Rizzo said.

I say, bravo.

It takes guts to admit that a $1 million decision to close skating down in this park — killing off the international attraction it had spontaneously become — might not have been the city's best course of action.

And, unlike the unimaginative either/or approach this city took by banning the sport, the compromise is an approach with room for everyone.

Skateboarders can skate, but only after 3 p.m. City workers can eat their lunch in peace.

Taxpayers get help with maintenance costs from non-profit fund-raisers, "Friends of LOVE Park;" and nearby corporate building managers get more help in keeping renegade skaters off their property.

Dan Keating, one of the city's leading developers, told me recently he'd support a plan that lets skaters share the park.

Which is one reason why Rizzo has softened. Keating's building, The Phoenix, is across the street from LOVE Park and one of those most affected by skateboarders.

"Let's do what the park says. Let's LOVE these kids and let them have a good time," said Rizzo.

"Who knows?" he added, "maybe some of us old guys will wind up watching their tricks and enjoying ourselves."

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