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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: June 26, 2002
Byline: Stephan Salisbury


LOVE Park gets a face-lift as skaters await new site

The broad runways of rickety granite paving stones are gone.

So are the hard benches that banged wheels and shins, the round concrete planters, the scraggly shrubbery, and the sheer grittiness of the place.

LOVE Park, once one of the great touring sites in the world of skateboarding, is only a memory now. In its place, and nearing completion, is a renovated JFK Plaza, a little more grassy and a lot less brassy.

The city hopes to reopen the park, closed since the end of April, by July 3 - in time for much of the citywide Welcome America! festival, said Terrie S. Rouse, the consultant coordinating the project for the city.

Less certain, however, is the site of a new skateboarding park, which city officials promised after skateboarders and their supporters mounted anguished protests over the shutdown of JFK Plaza, unofficially known to skateboarders the world over as LOVE Park.

Work on the plaza is about a day ahead of schedule, and the fencing around the park would come down the morning of July 3, Rouse said.

The upper portion of the plaza now sports two rectangular grassy areas and 16 square concrete planters holding locust and sycamore trees. Stone benches have been replaced by slatted wooden benches that feature raised, center arm rests. The arm rests discourage sleeping; the wooden slats discourage skateboarding.

New light stanchions have also been installed around the plaza.

On the park's lower level, new plantings are the most noticeable change: Foxglove, Russian sage and geraniums are the flowers of choice now.

As far as a new skateboard park is concerned, Frank Keel, Mayor Street's spokesman, said the city "remains committed" to finding a site and helping skateboarders secure funding to build a park.

An area behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art remains a possibility, but there has been some neighborhood opposition to that site, Keel said.

Bryan Nugent, a member of Franklin's Paine, a nonprofit skateboarding group that is working with the city on the project, said the absence of a site had made fund-raising extremely difficult.

Nugent said the city had as yet provided no funding contacts.

"We don't know what's going on," Nugent said. "They've given us no clear direction."

Keel said the city had been talking with possible private funding sources, but he declined to identify any.

"We are using the leverage and access the city has... to get [potential donors] aware of and interested in the idea," Keel said, adding that skateboarders would be brought to the table after city had determined real interest on the part of contributors. Said Keel: "We're not there yet."

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