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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: June 1, 2003
Byline: Editorial


Editorial: Long lost LOVE Park redo didn't end great skate debate

Pink's a funny color. It can be totally boring — or totally radical.

Boring, as in pink ruffled dresses, pink icing and pink flamingos. Radical, as in Pink Floyd, pinkos and pink Cadillacs.

Boring like LOVE Park's new pink planters, barely filled with pathetic purple petunias.

Radical like the gushing bright pink LOVE Park fountain that briefly delighted one and all after someone dumped dye into it several days ago.

Not to excuse vandalism, but the pink waters did bring some needed excitement to a Center City park that, since its redo last spring, has been transformed into something quiet, genteel, pleasant — and boring.

At lunch, the park is at its best. Lunchers happily munch their lunch; babies coo, and ever-vigilant police make sure no one skateboards there or even walks on the walls. Other times of day, though, it's empty.

Just in case you don't know the story, LOVE Park, officially JFK Plaza, was a sad and underused park until skateboarders discovered it many years ago. It became a place of legend. Boarders found its granite benches and ledges ideal for their edgy sport. It soon became known globablly as a skateboarding mecca. Skaters from all over would show up in Philadelphia, drawn by LOVE's fame. Philadelphia had a new brand name and tourist draw, without spending a dime of promotion money.

But Mayor Street didn't like the look of the park and he really didn't like skaters there (who, after all, ignored a law banning their sport.) Fast as you can say ollie, this normally slow-moving leader had found $800,000 in a tight budget to turn LOVE genteel, pleasant and boring.

Treated like vermin by the city, the skateboarders did something predictable: They moved to other spots. Now they're skating at Dilworth Plaza as well as on private sites, like Eleven Penn Center, causing damage. The private property damage is inexcusable but not surprising, since it rose after LOVE was de-skatified.

Old story. Why beat a dead horse?

It's because the dead horse just neighed. The Independence Hall Association, a group promoting Philadelphia history, is now hailing LOVE as a historical skateboarding site and urging people to sign its Free Love Park petition (at ushistory.org).

And Friday, Republican mayoral candidate Sam Katz went to LOVE to announce that, if elected, he would find a way to bring skateboarders back. Too bad he fell on his posterior while attempting a skateboard move. Great, though, that LOVE, and its future, will now be publicly debated.

Meanwhile, skateboarders wait — and wait — for fulfillment of the Street administration's promise of a skatepark to replace LOVE. Skateboarding leaders are pleased with city progress toward developing a site at the new Schuylkill River Park. Don't hold your breath, though. That site is not yet officially approved.

So stay tuned. Maybe, someday, LOVE Park, and skateboarders, will be back in the pink.

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