Date: August 18, 2002
Byline: Marty Bernoski
Derailed at Love ParkPHILADELPHIA – Strategically placed benches and planters obstruct knee-high granite shelves. A dozen trees in huge concrete planters – six on each side – form a rectangular perimeter surrounding a long strip of sod. Perennials provide flashes of red, yellow and violet. Wide-open spaces have been filled with flowers, trees and a plethora of wooden benches.
John. F. Kennedy Plaza, known as Love Park to skateboarders, has been given a facelift, a different life. The new landscape favors the sedentary. Cosmetic changes have transformed this former skateboarder's haven into, well, a park. It's a quiet place near City Hall to read, think, eat lunch – a green blip in the middle of an urban jungle. Love Park is no longer a place to ride.
The newly landscaped Love Park virtually eliminates all the lines a skater might ride. Did the city intentionally design an unskatable park, a skate-proof park?
Philadelphia's Kerry Getz, who won three X Games medals last summer, believes the new layout probably will discourage skaters.
"They did it to get us out of there because they put planters in the way of the ledges and tore out a lot of the ground and made it grass," Getz said. "So I guess it looks better, but to me I think it looks dumb because a lot of the planters – they're just little cement ones – that they shoved in certain areas. They don't even look like they're supposed to be there."
Maybe there's a method to the city's madness, as the risk that comes with riding Love Park is no longer worth the reward.
One of the only undisturbed rails left in the New Love.
"It's definitely gonna keep us outta there," Getz said. "There are certain things in there that we can skate, but it's not near as good as it used to be. Right now they have a cop there 24 hours a day so it's hard for us to even go there."
If a new park isn't built, Getz's fears might be realized.
"They just need to look out for us because there's people moving out of the city … there are some pros that are leaving. And it sucks on my part because those are my friends that I like to skate with all the time and they're leaving. As more skaters leave the scene is just going to fall apart."
For skaters, there are still a few remnants of Love Park's past glory: A battle-scarred metal rail alongside a handicap ramp near the Visitors Center and a trio of black urethane-streaked rails at the corner of 15th and Arch Streets. That's about it.
"When you're (at Love Park), you're at a famous spot. It's just perfect; perfect smooth ground and you can hang out with your friends … There's a little of everything; you can learn tricks there and it was just a great spot."
Start spreadin' the news: The new Love Park is a great spot to read a newspaper, not ride.