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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: November 22, 2003
Byline: Michael Currie Schaffer


LOVE Park skateboarding compromise stalls

A proposal would allow skateboards after 3 p.m. at the plaza. But city officials said no feasible design had been offered.

With winter just around the corner, now might not be the best time to linger over a brown-bag lunch in LOVE Park. But if you do, you'll be able to snack without any distraction from skateboarders — for now, at least.

That's quite a change from a month ago.

As recently as an Oct. 5 rally, skateboard advocates, their issue embraced by city political figures in the run-up to Election Day, predicted that the sport would soon return to the park after a two-year absence. Enthusiasts touted a compromise proposal that would allow skateboarding after 3 p.m. in the park at 15th Street and JFK Boulevard, which is formally known as JFK Plaza.

But city officials remained unconvinced that the time compromise was possible, said Loree Jones, chief of staff to city Managing Director Phil Goldsmith, in an interview this week.

"We don't have a design yet that would make that feasible," said Jones, who pointed out that compromise advocates had yet to come up with a workable scheme that would make it possible for pedestrians to walk through the park while skateboarders were speeding past.

Jones said skateboard advocates were still meeting with planning officials, but offered no timetable.

Goldsmith, who had been leading the city's discussions with skateboard advocates, was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

Andrew Hohns of the Coalition to Free Love Park said his group had addressed the issue.

"We had actually refined the compromise such that the southern area of the park would become a pedestrian-only zone all day due to the introduction of textured tile, so that skateboards would be physically unable to cross it," Hohns said. "That would address the concern of the Managing Director's Office vis-a-vis rush-hour commuters who felt they needed to use the park."

Hohns' group has come up with a 10-year business plan that would fund park maintenance and pay for a safety monitor through a combination of donations, sponsorships, and proceeds from a skateboarding store that would be located in the now-unused visitors' center on the plaza.

"When I read that it's unclear where the funding source is going to come from or who's going to monitor the park, I can't help but think that those comments have been misconstrued," said Hohns, an investment banker. "I've gone through detailed conversations with them about multiple iterations of this."

But Jones wondered how much of that money would materialize.

"We want a clearer sense that that money's forthcoming," she said.

Meanwhile, another of this year's skateboard-related policy issues is moving forward less contentiously.

In August, Mayor Street announced plans for the Schuylkill River Skateboard Park, which will be located off Eakins Oval, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Maxine Griffith, executive director of the City Planning Commission, said six design teams had submitted proposals by last week's deadline. A winner will likely be chosen by early next year, Griffith said.

Street has promised $100,000 for the design of the proposed park. The rest of what advocates project as a $2 million cost will come from donations and sponsorships.

"There's a lot of confidence that a major corporate donor would be interested in having their names on this project," said Joshua Nims of the Franklin's Paine Skatepark Fund, who is leading the fund-raising efforts.

LOVE Park advocates say they are equally certain that donors will want to associate themselves with the Center City park, a landmark of the sport that has appeared in skateboarding video games and has lured skateboarders from around the country.

Tonight, coalition members will show a video documentary about the park's skateboard culture. The screening is scheduled at 7 p.m. in the University of the Arts' Hamilton Hall.

LOVE Story, produced by the California-based ON Video Skateboarding magazine, features interviews with professional skateboarders and skateboard boosters such as Edmund Bacon, a former Philadelphia city planner.

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