Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Date: September 29, 2003
Byline: Jonathan A. Saidel
Let's try sharing the LOVEPHILADELPHIA is known for many destinations of international renown, like the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the new Constitution Center.
While our proud history makes Philadelphia a unique place to live, work and visit, we must also embrace the present and future. As the city continues to struggle with the effects of a shrinking and aging population, it is imperative that we leverage the assets we have to attract and retain people, businesses and tourists.
One location has become an international icon for a growing, youth-driven community. LOVE Park (JFK Plaza, at the corner of 16th and Arch) is the premier venue for street-style skateboarding due to the park's unique design and construction materials.
Skateboard movies, magazines, video games, equipment and apparel bear the distinctive LOVE logo. Unfortunately, the rise in popularity of LOVE Park for skateboarding created maintenance problems in the park and tension among the various groups of users, leading to the closure of LOVE Park to skateboarders.
I have become convinced that we can protect this amenity without excluding skateboarding. The growing popularity of this industry is well documented, with more people over the age of 6 participating in skateboarding than baseball. The skateboarding industry had $1.4 billion in revenue in 2002, and our region has developed a thriving commercial community related to the sport. We have the power to harness the excitement that emanates from LOVE Park.
Following renovations to the park in 2002, skateboarding has not been possible. New elements made skating nearly impossible and skateboarders are routinely chased off. While I applaud the administration's efforts to provide alternate locations for skateboarding, LOVE Park offers a one-of-a-kind experience and cannot be replaced. The decision to alter the park represents a lost opportunity to use the serendipitous fame of LOVE Park as a catalyst for growth.
A compromise crafted by the Coalition to Free LOVE Park addresses concerns about conflict between skaters and non-skaters in LOVE Park.
They suggest the city should:
- Restore some of the original park features, and add elements to protect the property from wear and tear.
- Support the creation of a nonprofit organization to raise funds and oversee maintenance of the park.
- Permit skateboarding only after 3 p.m. on weekdays and weekends to accommodate lunchtime users and discourage truancy.
- Allow reuse of the former Visitor's Center to provide an opportunity to generate revenue to fund maintenance of the park and add a vibrant amenity to it.
- Provide skateboarders with their preferred skating location, reducing the temptation to skate on private property. Also, the coalition supports the recently enacted increase to fines for skating on private property.
LOVE Park is a place that all Philadelphians should be able to enjoy, whether as a serene spot to eat lunch or a place to perfect an ollie.