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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: June 11, 2004
Byline: C. Thompson

Forget the future; play like the skateboarders do

The skateboarding controversy at JFK Plaza — also known as LOVE Park — refuses to go away, and with good reason. It clearly is one of the most pressing issues facing the city today.

Our tax structure, the lack of industry, internecine politics, federal corruption probe(s), the union stranglehold on the use of every staple gun and glue bottle in the city, the rapid death rate of students, et cetera, are merely a distraction.

No, what we need to focus on most is whether kids, many of whom appear to be approaching their 30s, can force the general population out of one of Philadelphia's most centrally located parks — amid City Hall and the surrounding Center City buildings and caressed by fountains. They want to pursue a "sport" while leaving a stain of wheel grease, chipped granite, and miscellaneous destruction in their wake.

Forcing citizens from their park is so obviously the right thing to do that august civic leaders such as City Controller Jonathan Saidel and former City Planner Edmund Bacon dropped their busy schedules to join the appeal. So, unlike Tareyton smokers (those of you under 40, ask your parents about this), we should switch, not fight.

Here are some other ideas for making the city even more hip for the kids today:

Rock climbing up the City Hall tower and rappeling into the courtyard below. Everyone just get out of the way. This is what the skateboarders expect of you at LOVE Park, so why not here?

Bocce bowling in Rittenhouse Square. Walk your dog somewhere else — like New Jersey.

Dirtbike racing along the banks of the Schuylkill. Picnics are for squares.

Street bobsledding on Chestnut Street. No one else uses the street no matter what we do, so why not?

Bungee jumping from One Liberty Place. Those of you at work in there, just ignore them.

Mountaineering in the Great Northeast. Few of us know our way around up there, so this could help.

Paintball wars in South Philly. People there are accustomed to the sounds of random gunplay already.

What we need to do is make our entire city a playground. Those of us not earning a living as skateboarders could make a handsome few dollars an hour hawking Mountain Dew.

We would no longer have to pressure ourselves, man, into creating a future, like our ancestors did, when Philadelphia was the at the center of — or the clear capital of — finance, shipping, textile, publishing, medicine and heavy manufacturing upon which the world once relied.

The North's efforts during the Civil War to keep this nation a union was financed largely out of Philadelphia, and the elegant Union League still stands as a reminder of what young men and women did with their time when it counted. But those banisters on the steps of its building on Broad Street sure would make one wicked good skate rail, eh dude?

It's time for someone else to do the work. Men and women worked and died for our privileges, and now we have an inalienable right to play.

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