Friday, December 18, 2009

MTV Star Rob Dyrdek's Amazing Safe Spot, Skate Spot Program

Dyrdek and the city of LA work together to keep kids safe:
Rob Dyrdek and the city of Los Angeles are 2-for-2 in giving skateboarders a place where they can ride challenging obstacles without getting chased away by the police.

Dyrdek, the pro skateboarder and MTV star, unveiled a $350,000 skate park Thursday that is the latest in his Safe Spot, Skate Spot program.

Dyrdek contributed $75,000 from his foundation and Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar came up with the rest of the funding for the 14,000-square-foot, tri-level skate plaza at Hollenbeck Park just east of downtown.

Tired of seeing street skateboarders treated as nuisances, the Midwestern-born Dyrdek started the Safe Spot, Skate Spot program to give them a legal place to ride handrails, ledges and stairs.

His first skate park, in Lafayette Park, was dedicated in February, when he and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa rode the world's largest skateboard, measuring 38 feet, 6 inches.

"They've bought into what I'm trying to do," Dyrdek said by phone. "I think conceptually, when you say, 'Hey, it's not that expensive. If you give me a little piece of it, I'll make a really cool, unique, skateable surface that enhances the park and looks gorgeous.' And even for all that, if skateboarding dies tomorrow, they still have this great plaza, and they can turn it into something else.
THIS is the future of skatepark design:
It's the idea of not putting just a fence around a bunch of bowls. It's designing and developing a really beautiful plaza that happens to be perfectly built for skateboarding. It's a necessity to the future of the sport that kids have a place to do it."
AP: Dyrdek unveils latest skate park

New Jersey: After Teens Testify, Linden City Council Votes to Open 2 Parks to Skateboarders

teens testify in front of Linden City Council
14 and 16 year-old teens testify at council meeting
LINDEN -- After years of debate over where to put a skate park in Linden, the city council voted to open two sites for boarders at a meeting this week.

First, the council decided to open James Dobson Park in the 3rd Ward to skateboarding on weekends. The park has a paved area and is located at East Blancke Street and Maple Avenue.

"It'll at least satisfy some of these kids and parents for a while," said council president Robert Bunk. “Let’s take care of these kids a little bit."

Councilman Robert Sadowski said the park would be opened "as a little early Christmas program."

But that didn't end the long-standing debate over the best location in town for kickflips, ollies and grinding.

"I don't think (a skate park) should be open in the 3rd Ward," said Councilman Derek Armstead. He said Wheeler Park, by West Stimpson Avenue and Route 1, would be a better choice.

Three teenage skateboarders who attended the meeting agreed with Armstead that Wheeler Park was the best spot. That site, which needs paving work, had county funding and approval a year ago, according to Armstead, but the park was never approved because of residents who didn’t want it in their neighborhood. After long debate, Linden could have two parks for skating

Tony Hawk Foundation Helps Poor Kids in Watts Get Skatepark

Skateistan wins Peace and Sport Award in Monaco

Skateistan is the first skateboarding school in Afghanistan. It engages urban youth through skateboarding and focuses on education, cross-cultural interaction, public health, social development, and creating opportunities for girls.

Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich started Skateistan with nothing more than some used skateboards and a dream. The program changed the lives of many poor children in Kabul by giving them opportunities to teach skateboarding for money, whereas many of them had been begging in the streets. The kids started out skating busted, empty fountains, but today, Skateistan has an indoor skatepark that's the largest indoor sports facility in Kabul.

This program is having a profound impact on young girls in Afghanistan — skateboarding is the only public sport available to girls. And, they don't just teach skateboarding:
They will develop skills in skateboarding, skateboarding instruction, healthy habits, civic responsibility, information technology, the arts, and languages. The students themselves decide what they want to learn; we connect them with teachers who will enable them to develop the skills that they consider important.
Having changed so many childrens' lives so quickly, Skateistan so much deserves this award for promoting peace through sport:
Skateistan has been given the award for best non-governmental organization of the year in Monaco by the Peace and Sport Forum. In the presence of H.S.H Prince Albert II, Skateistan Executive Director Oliver Percovich received the award from Peace and Sport Director and former world champion Joel Bouzou. The 3rd annual forum and award ceremony was organized by the "Organization for Peace through Sport." Skateistan wins the Peace and Sport NGO of the Year Award in Monaco

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Skateboarding Monk in China

skateboarding monk
Photographs of a monk skateboarding inside a historic temple have caused controversy in China.

They were taken by a visitor to the Emei Mountain Temple, in Sichuan province, and posted on the internet, reports Huaxi Metropolis News.

The monastery stands near the top of Mount Emei - the highest of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China and the site of the country's first ever Buddhist temple.
Ananova: Skateboarding monk shocks China

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More on the New Loudon County Skatepark

A skater's reaction to the new skatepark:
"This park is excellent," said skateboarder Steve Jefferson, 21, who has been involved with the project over the past year. "It's unlike any park I've ever been to. This park is definitely a modern-type skate park for this century. It has new features that are most likely not even in a street even, they are perfect for skateboarding."
On the collaboration between Loudon County and the South Riding Home Owner's Association:
"We had an agreement with the county where we would pay for it and then the county would take over maintenance and management of the park," said Jeff Salmon, president of the South Riding HOA. "It's effectively a gift from the HOA to Loudoun County."
Salmon on meeting the needs of older kids:
"We have a lot of resources for young children, but the older kids had little activities in the entire Dulles South area," he said. “"we determined this would be something the older kids would like and determined this was a need."
Involving skaters in the park's design:
Salmon said skateboarders and other members of the community were involved with the process all along.

"In July, we had a demo day for a skate park and let them vote on different designs and they actually selected the design we went with," he said. "We've received nothing but positive feedback."
Loudon Times: Skate Park opening in Dulles

Frederick, MD: Community Pitches in to Help Build Skatepark

Frederick County Commissioners amended the Middletown Park plan to allow a skate park to be built, and Pam Dietrik, a former skateboard mom, and skaters are helping to raise the funds to build the park.

From Paul Dial, director of the county's Parks and Recreation Department, and Drew Bowen, Middletown Town Manager:
"They want to go on the rails, they want to go on steps," Dial said. Skate parks can become a safe gathering place for young people.

"Times have changed and things have changed," Bowen said. Skate parks are not breeding grounds for disruptive youth doing nefarious activities.

Nearby properties are not harmed by the presence of skate parks, Dial said.

Injuries from skateboarding are far less than those from football and basketball, Bowen said, so insurance is not a problem. Skateboarders seek new home in Middletown

Restaurants, Bars, and Kids

While some folks in Silver Spring continue to obsess over restaurants and bars, the needs of kids continue to be ignored.

Loudon Homeowners Association Paid for Construction of Skatepark

Wow, what a difference in perspective:
"Kids have been chomping at the bit for this," said Claire Smith, spokeswoman for the Loudoun County Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services.

The project was a joint venture between the county, which owns the land, and the South Riding Proprietary—the community’s homeowners association—which fronted the money to build the park.

"A lot of people in the county want things we just can't afford right now,”"Smith said, added that’s why "this has been such a great partnership."

Jeff Salmon, a member of South Riding’s board of directors, said the association had sought financial help from surrounding communities to build the park, but was unsuccessful. So it decided to pay for the entire project itself.

"We feel by providing this additional resource that we are adding value for all the homeowners of South Riding," Salmon said. First County-Owned Skate Park to Open Saturday

Chuck Crawford, New School Professor of Architecture, on Skateparks

In response to the battle brewing over a proposed skatepark at Watts Tower in LA:
A skate park at Watts Towers is a brilliant idea to promote and support the arts and I am perplexed that my fellow artists are expressing concern. They complain of noise? John Cage would be recording the music the skaters will make! If they were still alive, Andy Warhol would relocate the factory and Merce Cunningham would come to study the natural ballet that is skateboarding.

Drugs and gangs? No. You can't skateboard when on drugs; on the contrary, skate parks offer a relief and an alternative from drugs and gangs. Besides, this is not a rock club; skate parks are far from noisy. Graffiti? Skaters don't desecrate their homes.

One detractor is quoted as saying, "How would we feel about . . . a skate park in the vicinity of the Getty or LACMA?" What a great idea! We attract our youth for the athletics and encourage them to stay for the art. We should build skate parks next to every cultural institution.

As an artist and an educator, I have had numerous students who started with skateboards, moved on to punk and graduated into the arts. Build the park and "the two city-run arts centers" nearby will be flooded with young men and women who would have never come before seeking new outlets for their creative energy. Skateboarding is a creative, positive and, yes, artistic activity, and we gravely misunderstand its role when we label it destructive.

Build it and they will come. It may not produce a lot of tourist dollars, but there's little doubt that it will produce more than a few future artists.

Chuck Crawford

San Diego

The writer is a professor of architecture at the New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego and a part-time skateboarder.

Portland, Oregon: Video Of Skateboard Scuffle Sparks Investigation

Portland security guard swings a skateboard at a skater. While no Silver Spring skater has reported being hit with a skateboard, several have reported being physically attacked by security guards.
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A video showing a security guard fighting with a group of people in downtown Portland has sparked a city investigation.

The video shows a security guard grabbing a skateboard and swinging it at a man in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees city parks, released a statement Tuesday acknowledging the incident.

"On the evening of Nov. 25, 2009, Pioneer Courthouse Square security officers attempting to enforce park regulations were involved in an alteration with four individuals. One officer suffered minor injuries," Fish said.

The district attorney and parks bureau officials are investigating.
Fox 12 Oregon: Video Of Skateboard Scuffle Sparks Investigation

Thought for the Day

Passed along to me by my friend, New York poet Ola-Jendai Beluvid:
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
— Uptown Sinclair

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sachs Scholar Josh Grehan Researching Skateparks and Crime

A very common source of opposition to skateparks is the perception that they increase crime in the areas they're built. Princeton senior and Sachs Scholar Josh Grehan is doing much-needed research, based on his hypothesis that skateparks can actually reduce crime:
Tienda is advising Grehan's senior thesis, in which he is examining how communities can use public spaces to help disadvantaged youth. Grehan is conducting research to support his hypothesis that skateboard parks can help reduce crime by providing constructive outlets for youngsters. Noting that those who oppose the building of such facilities often argue that skateboard parks lead to rising crime, he said, "If it turns out there is no connection [to higher crime], then one of the major impediments to the construction of skateboard parks will be removed."
Maxwell Billieon, an entertainment executive who joined with the City of Los Angeles to build a street plaza skatepark in Wilmington, California (one of the top five most dangerous communities in the city of Los Angeles) said that "crime in this area has now been reduced by 90% and the park averages about 250 skaters a day".

That's an amazing success story, and I'm convinced we'll be hearing more stories like this as more skateparks are built around the country. But the research Grehan is doing can provide scientific data to support what many of us have already seen — that skateparks have a powerfully positive influence in the communities where they're built.

News at Princeton: Grehan receives Sachs Scholarship

How Skaters Without Skateparks are Criminalized

It's not unusual for skateboarders without access to a skatepark, or to a safe and legal place to skate, to become involved with the criminal justice system for trespassing on private property. That's what happened to 15 year-old honors student Cameron Kennon from Bloomfield New Jersey, who was arrested and handcuffed, and had his skateboard confiscated:
Cameron Kennon, a 15-year-old honors student at Montclair High, was arrested last Wednesday for criminal trespass for skateboarding in a bank parking lot on Valley Road. Kennon was handcuffed and taken to the Montclair Police station, where his mug shot was taken and he was put in a cell for about an hour before his mother arrived. His skateboard was confiscated. A friend of Cameron's, 15, was also arrested.

Cameron's arrest has inflamed his mother, Sabine, whose Watercooler post (registration required) shortly after the event has spawned dozens of replies. She's now renewing a campaign to get a skateboard park in town, which died a NIMBY death two years ago.

"Police I understand are between a rock and a hard place," said Sabine. "But there's so much more going on for them to be harassing these kids for doing something harmless."

"It's like really unfair. It's the only thing we really do," said Cameron, a tall skinny boy with a shy manner. "I'm not like a troublemaker."
» Skateboarder Arrest Fuels New Bid for Skate Park

Monday, December 14, 2009

In Silver Spring and Elsewhere, Black Skateboarding Surges

I recently wrote about the changing face of skateboarding, and how the population of skaters in and around Silver Spring looks very different from the days when Lisa Jaeggi made her short film, No No Skateboarding (2005). The majority of skaters in that film appear to be white, but in Silver Spring today, most skaters are black and hispanic.

We saw that in the 30 or so skaters who showed up at Park & Planning's November 4th community meeting about the Woodside Skate Spot — there may have been 5 white skaters there.

Skateboarding is an incredibly accessible sport because kids don't have to pay fees to participate in leagues, and they don't need to buy uniforms or have parents drop them off and pick them up for practice. All a kid needs to get started is a skateboard and some concrete.

I've talked to many minority skaters in Silver Spring who have never participated in a single camp or any organized program during summers. Many of them view skateboarding as the thing that keeps them active and focused, and keeps them away from negative influences in their lives.

Pro-skater and friend of many Silver Spring skaters, Darren Harper, talked to me about the shift he's seen during the past few years, and how it's not unusual today to see many kids in the hood skateboarding, and even bringing skateboards to school.

This trend of increased participation among blacks in skateboarding, is happening here and in many parts of the country. From Black skateboarding surges in the sport's next generation.

Yes We Can! (Skate on Ellsworth Drive)

On Saturday, December 12th, a DTSS security guard told skaters that yes, we can skate on Ellsworth Drive (from the area in front of Potbelly's to the end of the block, at Ellsworth and Fenton.)

This is the same security guard who, several months ago, threatened to call the police on I and several other skaters for simply standing in front of New York & Co. holding our skateboards. I told him what he could clearly see — that we were not skating but standing there holding our boards. But because we refused his demand to leave Ellsworth, he proceeded to call the police via his walkie-talkie, telling them that we were still skateboarding on Ellsworth Drive. Rather than trying to fight this blatant deception, I and the other skaters I was with left DTSS.

On November 14th, I sent an email to the DTSS Property Manager and their Head of Security, asking them what legal basis they were using for prohibiting skateboarding on Ellsworth. It's now December 14th, and I have not received a response.

What the security guard told skaters Saturday night, that we can skate on Ellsworth, is what I have maintained every time I and other skaters got kicked out for skating there — that Ellsworth Drive is public space. County Executive Isiah Leggett said it back in 2007, and this has been documented in the Washington Post, as well as by Dan Reed at Just Up The Pike, so why are we even having this conversation...when it's almost 2010?
"The County considers Ellsworth to be a public forum permitting the free and unfettered exercise of First Amendment rights," Leggett (D) said in the letter to PFA Silver Spring LC and the Peterson Companies.
Lisa Jaeggi, along with other skateboarders, challenged the no-skateboarding rule in 2005, and back then her father, Richard Jaeggi, wrote that "Nowhere in Silver Spring is the prohibition of skateboards more rigorously enforced than in the heart of Silver Sprung on Ellsworth Drive."

The county has made its position clear. The Property Manager of DTSS has acknowledged the public nature of Ellsworth Drive, with Paul Liquorie of MCPD confirming.
Both Nettles and Liquorie said because Ellsworth Drive has been deemed a public street – Peterson leases the property from the county – residents have all their First Amendment rights and a curfew would not be possible.


"We have to maintain First Amendment rights," Nettles said.
And now that a DTSS security guard has told us we can skate on Ellsworth Drive, can we please, finally, put this issue to bed?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Arguments for a Skatepark in Downtown Silver Spring

The many reasons why we need a large skatepark in downtown Silver Spring:
  • Skateparks save lives — While skateboarding is statistically safer than playing basketball, there were 42 skateboarding-related deaths in 2006. Of those 42, 40 happened outside of skateparks. The vast majority of skateboard-related deaths involve motor vehicles. From Skaters for Public Skateparks: "Skateboarding youth are being killed in the streets at an alarming rate, because they lack appropriate places to recreate. Skateboarders need skateparks." Also, 50% of skateboard-related trauma is caused by skating on irregular ground, such as broken sidewalks or stairs.
  • Silver Spring's kids have been asking for a skatepark for 10 years — Ever since the closing of the interim downtown skatepark East of Maui, which closed to make way for the redevelopment, kids in Silver Spring have been asking for a downtown skatepark. Kids have protested, made films, and spoken out about this for years. While community groups discuss the lack of "things to do" for young people downtown, a huge number of our kids already have something to do — they just don't have a place to do it.
  • It's in the Master Plan for downtown Silver Spring — This document, Addendum to April 2008 Master Plan Status Report, lists projects included in the Master Plan and their status. For the item Replace Interim Skateboard Facility, the status listed: No progress to date.
  • 2,838 potential skaters in the area — Using a forumla from Skaters for Public Skateparks, and using data from the American Community Survey, Dan Reed from Just Up The Pike crunched the numbers and discovered that there are 2,838 potential skaters in and around downtown Silver Spring. Of those, 33%, or 936, are likely to be daily skaters — those most likely to use a skatepark.
  • Skateboarding is the fastest growing sport in America — According to the National Sporting Goods Association, in a 10 year study (from 1998 to 2008) tracking sports that grew in participation by at least 15%, skateboarding beat them all, growing by 74.1%. And the 2007 title Social Issues in Sport, reports that based on studies by National Sporting Goods Association, and Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, there's been a "dramatic shift in participation among teens and preteens from mainstream sports such as basketball and football to extreme or action sports." And that since 1990, participation in mainstream sports is down 30%, while participation in action sports "is up in excess of 600%."
  • Obesity and inactivity among youthAccording to the CDC, over 17% of American children are obese (over 9 million American kids), and the obesity rate has tripled in the past three decades. Overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. This increases to 80% if one or more parent is overweight or obese. Also, 65% of children in America do not meet recommended guidelines for physical activity, and 35% watched television 3 or more hours per day on an average school day.

    Obesity and inactivity among kids have become such serious problems that the US Department of Health and Human Services recently enlisted the aid of the Ad Council and Warner Bros. Pictures to produce a Public Service Ad for television, encouraging kids to go outside and play 1 hour each day.

    In contrast to these disturbing trends, obesity among skateboarders is almost nonexistent. Skaters tend to exceed the recommended guidelines for physical activity, and it's very difficult to keep skateboarders from being active — it generally takes rain or snow, (which makes skateboarding dangerous and damages skateboards) to keep skaters indoors.
  • To protect property from skateboarding-related damage"If your city doesn't have a skatepark, your city BECOMES a skatepark."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Long Story Short

The Montgomery County Planning Board's Sector Plan for the Silver Spring Central Business District calls for a downtown skatepark. The Sector Plan, created in 2000, acknowledges the popularity of East of Maui, a former downtown skatepark that was built in the late 1990s and that used to sit where the Silver Plaza (the fountain, etc.) is now.

The Sector Plan also acknowledges the need for a downtown skatepark in order to reduce damage to redevelopment properties from skateboarders. It's in the county's economic interest to build a skatepark. Areas that have skateparks have much less damage to surrounding properties. We've seen this dynamic here in Silver Spring — when skaters had a legal place to skate, (and not even a skatepark but a half-block's worth of flat pavement to skate), no one skated Discovery and there was no damage to Discovery Plaza, or to it's marble ledge. Both were trashed after that skate spot was taken away. This was not done out of vengeance or a desire to destroy property. It happened because skaters had no place to go.

The East of Maui skatepark was interim from its start. It was intended as a temporary amenity to give kids downtown something to do before DTSS was fully developed. The reference in the 2008 Status Report, "replace interim skateboard facility", is specifically referring to replacing East of Maui.

Park & Planning came up with plans for a "skate spot" (too small to be called a skatepark) in Woodside Urban Park. At a November community meeting they told us that they asked a skatepark company for the smallest possible park they could build. Experts in this field say a skate spot this size can only support 20 skaters. The project has been delayed because Woodside Civic Association wants a lot of questions answered before they support it, but even if it actually does get built, The Woodside Skate Spot is also intended to be interim. So, they want to replace an interim park...with an interim park?

In 2005 parks had plans for a 14,000 square foot skatepark in Fenton Gateway Park. Our need for a real skatepark is much greater today than it was in 2005. So why are we moving backwards rather than forward? Where's the commitment to these kids — to keeping them out of trouble and helping them to engage in healthy activities?

The most important reason for building a downtown skatepark? Of the 42 US skateboarding-related fatalities in 2006 (that's about 1 per week), 40 happened outside of skateparks. Skateboarding is statistically safer than playing basketball, and the vast majority of these fatalities involved motor vehicles. And sadly, one of them happened right here in Silver Spring.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Regarding that 2008 Master Plan Status Report...

What happened? Where's the skatepark?


CBD skatepark no progress

Skateboarding Timeline: How Silver Spring's Kids Were Let Down [UPDATED]

(Update appears at the end of this post — the last 2 items in the timeline.)

Teens have been speaking up very clearly, and for a very long time, about what they want and need. And yet, all they've gotten so far is broken promises.

In 2005 the county parks department had plans to build a 14,000 square foot skatepark in Fenton Gateway Park. While the 2000 Sector Plan for the Central Business District calls for downtown to have a skatepark, it seems the real impetus for this project came from Lisa Jaeggi and her now-famous No No Skateboarding, the short film shot by her father, Richard Jaeggi, protesting the prohibition of skateboarding by a private company (DTSS), on a public street (Ellsworth Drive.)

But there was no support for the skatepark in Fenton Gateway Park by the surrounding community, and plans were allowed to "quietly die." After that, the county did address the lack of a legal place to skateboard by giving skaters lower Ellsworth, blocking traffic and allowing skateboarding there on weekends.

One day in January 2009, skateboarders showed up at their beloved skate spot on Ellsworth, to find that it no longer existed. Without a word of warning to skaters, the one place in all of downtown where skaters could skate and not get kicked out, was suddenly gone. From then until now skaters in and around the the Central Business District, which is supposed to have a skatepark, have gotten nothing but promises for a new spot (all broken), and harassment from DTSS and various other security guards in the area.

In the 2000 Sector Plan for the CBD, the call for a skatepark acknowledged the popularity of East of Maui, the "interim" skatepark that was once downtown, and also addressed the importance of providing a legitimate skating facility in order to protect the redevelopment areas from being damaged by skaters.

Since 2000, the entire country has seen an explosion of growth in extreme sports, most of all skateboarding, while the numbers for all team sports are down. Skaters for Public Skateparks says the national average of youth that skate is 16%, and of those, 33% are daily skaters. In a ten year study the National Association of Sporting Goods Manufacturers said that among sports that grew by at least 15%, skateboarding beat them all — growing more than 74%.

Today, skateboarding is a multi-billion dollar industry.

If we were to reprise Lisa Jaeggi's film today, it would look quite a bit different from No No Skateboarding — the skaters in her video appear to be almost all white, while the vast majority of Silver Spring skaters today are minorities — many of them with limited options for recreation.

Here's a quick timeline of skateboarding-related events in Silver Spring.

  • East of Maui closed — The East of Maui Skatepark closed to make way for the downtown redevelopment. It's owner Dave Loop told me it was always meant to be "interim" but that he was able to keep it open longer than expected. (Sadly, all of the ramps and equipment were destroyed when the skatepark closed.)
  • March 2005 Youth not discussed — In a Citizens Advisory Board meeting, Impact Silver Spring's leader Frankie Blackburn said "I was on the Redevelopment Committee and we never once discussed incorporating youth in downtown."
  • 2006 Silver Spring skateboarder killed — 44 year old Bob Wooldrige was hit by a car and killed while skateboarding on a Silver Spring neighborhood street.
  • 2006 Lower Ellsworth opens to skaters — The county started blocking traffic for skateboarders on the lower portion of Ellsworth Drive on weekends — apparently to give skaters something after plans for the skatepark in Fenton Gateway Park died.
  • January 2009 Lower Ellsworth closed to skaters — The management of DTSS and the Silver Spring Regional Office stopped blocking traffic for skaters, closing lower Ellsworth as a skating spot — the only legal skateboarding spot in downtown Silver Spring. Gary Stith told me the reason for ending skateboarding on Ellsworth was because "businesses complained."
  • January 2009 Promise of a new skate spot — Shortly after Ellsworth was closed to skateboarders — I was told by Gary Stith that he was trying to get us a new skate spot in an area behind Whole Foods, and that we were likely to have that within a couple of weeks. Never happened.
  • January 2009 Seeking support from Richard Jaeggi — I called Richard Jaeggi asking for help to get skating back on Ellsworth, or an alternative location. Richard told me he was too busy planning the March 7th Mixed Unity concert, and that was all he could focus on. (He told me he had tried to bring skaters into Mixed Unity but failed, and asked me to bring them in. But I attended a few meetings and after the first, I told him I didn't think they'd be interested since all I saw was concert planning. The skaters just wanted a place to skate.)
  • February 2009 DTSS gives us, then takes back skate spot — I was told by Lillian Buie, DTSS Guest Relations Director, that we could have the alley beside the DTSS security office. She took me to the alley to show me the area. We WERE allowed to skate there...for all of two weeks, before it was taken away and they started kicking us out.
  • May 2009 Another supposed skate spot — We were told by Jennifer Nettles, Property Manager of DTSS, that she was working on getting us the pavement between Whole Foods and Hollywood Video. Never happened.
  • May 2009 Skateboarding event that never happened — AFI asked DTSS to host a skateboarding event, to promote a skateboarding movie AFI planned to screen. Never happened. (After a 3-month fiasco of trying to help DTSS plan this thing, with the date being changed from June 21st, to July 21st, to August 21st, we were finally offered such a low-budget tired-sounding event that no one would have bothered to come.)
  • July 2009 A supposed skatepark on library property — We were supposedly on track to get a skatepark in the space the library currently sits on, once that's torn down. Not gonna happen.
  • July 2009 No response from Citizens Advisory Committee — Following DTSS Property Manager's request, Lillian Buie made an email introduction with me and a Citizens Advisory Board member, identifying me as someone who was very involved with local skaters and who knows a lot about their needs. I sent 3 long emails to that Advisory Board member — not one of them got a response.
  • October 2009 Skaters find out about Woodside plans — Former Silver Spring skater Mike Fitzgerald, who came with me to the first meeting with DTSS on the planned skateboarding event, (and who now lives in West Virginia), informed me of the planned skate spot for Woodside Urban Park. I immediately set up a Facebook Group and started organizing skaters to support it.
  • November 4th, 2009 Woodside Skate Spot meeting — We were supposedly going to have a tiny "skate spot" (3,000 square feet) in Woodside Park this January. We were asked to support it. We did support it, asking skaters to send supportive emails, and asking skaters to attend the meeting (30 did), and I even attended a 'pre-meeting' that I initiated on November 4th, the day of the community meeting. Construction on that skate spot has now been delayed, and I'm not convinced it's actually going to be built.
  • November 25, 2009 SPS weighs in — In a comment posted to Dan's blog, Skaters for Public Skateparks Publishing Director Peter Whitley, thanks Dan for using the SPS data exactly as it was meant to be used, and points out that while "budget-minded bureaucrats" may see skate spots as "miniature skateparks", they are not, and are only meant to augment community skateparks and not to replace them.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Woodside Too Small for Downtown Skatepark (According to Park & Planning in 2005)

Based on the explosion of growth in extreme sports, we likely have hundreds more skateboarders in Silver Spring today than we did in 2005. And yet, in 2005, Park & Planning said that Woodside Urban Park was too small to accommodate a skatepark, and that even Jesup Blair Local Park, (where the available space was 5,000 square feet), was too small.

So why, at the end of 2009, when all available data suggests we have many more skateboarders than in 2005, would Park & Planning intentionally plan for the smallest skatepark possible in Woodside Urban Park?
"Other sites considered for skateboard parks but deemed too small were Woodside Urban Park and Jesup Blair Local Park. The Jesup Blair Facility Plan approved by the Montgomery County Planning Board includes a small skateboard park; however, the available space is only 5,000 square feet, which is too small to accommodate this type of facility. Therefore, staff is no longer recommending its construction." (pp. 26-27) The staff report also included a memorandum from Councilmember Silverman to the Planning Board encouraging the Planning Board to include a skate park in the next CIP.
And if Jesup Blair was deemed too small at 5,000 square feet, how on earth could a 3,000 square foot "skate spot" possibly meet the needs of local skaters?

This Is NOT Just About a Skatepark

As important as it is for skaters in Silver Spring to have a safe and legal place to skate (and one that can accommodate the enormous community of skaters we have here), our organizing and our advocacy work is NOT just about getting a skatepark. And this is not just about skateboarding, or skateboarders. This is about a huge number of children in our community — it's about their safety, their welfare, and how much we value their voices and their concerns.

In the coming weeks you'll be hearing directly from many of our young skaters, speaking out about their struggles and their frustrations. They've got a lot to say, and I hope this community will listen.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Skateparks Save Lives (or One More Reason Why Silver Spring NEEDS a Large Skatepark)

I found this report on skateboard fatalities from Skaters for Public Skateparks' Executive Director John Leizear, on a Concrete Disciples forum. One of the writers of this report, SPS Publishing Director Peter Whitley, recently left a very eye-opening comment on Dan Reed's blog Just Up The Pike, in which Dan makes a slam-dunk case for having a large skatepark in downtown Silver Spring. In his blog post Dan points out that a tiny skate spot in Woodside cannot, and will not clear downtown streets of skaters, and Whitley's comment clearly explains why a "skate spot" is not a miniature skatepark, and why the concept of skate spots was never meant to replace community skateparks, but to augment them.

This report adds even more weight to Dan's argument in support of a downtown skatepark — and shows the potential cost of not providing a safe and legal place for Silver Spring skateboarders to pursue their passion. Sadly, number 28 on the list of 2006 skateboarding fatalities, is 44 year old Bob Wooldridge of Silver Spring, who was hit by a car while riding a skateboard in the street. (Bolding emphasis in the following report is mine.)
Throughout 2006 Skaters for Public Skateparks (SPS) tracked several aspects of skateboarding activity, including skateboard-related fatalities, as reported in the media, online sources, and other publishing sources. On average 2006 had nearly one person killed per week while skateboarding; a total of 42 skateboarding youth died while recreating. Of these 42 deaths, 40 occurred outside of skateparks.

Skateboarding in the United States is increasing in popularity. At SPS we believe that accessible skateboarding facilities are the best way to encourage this healthy activity safe. Public parks and areas without vehicular traffic, such as plazas and city squares, are the safest places for skateboarders to recreate yet increasingly skaters are kicked out of these environments and must find new places to recreate. This can lead to consequences that every person in the community should find unacceptable. Skateboarding youth are being killed in the streets at an alarming rate, because they lack appropriate places to recreate. Skateboarders need skateparks. At SPS, we hope that these figures illuminate the gravity of this tragic problem.

2006 saw a broad range of Skaters lose their life. The youngest was Seven Year old Ian Campbell from Soulsbyville, California who was struck by a truck while skating in front of his house on March 15, 2006. Our Brother, Ian was the 17th victim of 2006. In contrast, 2006's oldest skater to die was Mr. Steve Helton of Buhl, Idaho. Mr. Helton was 49 at the time of the accident, and was the 38th fatality of 2006. Ian and Steve died doing something they enjoyed, and were separated by hundreds of miles and 42 years of experience, but they shared a love of skateboarding.

The research supports a view that most skateboarders share through personal observation. In itself skateboarding is not dangerous, but when it's combined with vehicular traffic it can be deadly. In 2006, 27 skateboarders were struck and killed by vehicles. Texas recorded seven fatal vehicular accidents involving skaters, while California had four. No state is immune from these tragedies. Maine, Alabama, Minnesota, South Carolina, and many others each faced this preventable tragedy.

The future looks bright for skateboarders everywhere. Communities across the nation are realizing the value of skateparks. Fearful, suspicious attitudes towards skateboarders are melting away as skateboarding advocates continue to present a vision where skateboarding is accepted as a healthy, positive recreational choice for our youth and young-at-heart. In a society that is seeing staggering numbers of children become overweight, and the fact that traditional sports have declined in participation, it is paramount we re-activate our communities with the desires of today's sporting and recreating youth. Support your local skateboarders, and lobby your Governments to build skateparks to keep our communities safe and active.

Fatalities by Age (in years):

12 and under: 6
13 – 18: 21
19 – 24: 12
25 and up: 3
*14 – 15: 12 Fatalities

By Gender
Male: 40
Female: 2

By Location
Within skatepark: 2
Outside skatepark: 40

Research: John Leizear
SPS Members
Writers: John Leizear
Peter Whitley

for more information contact:
John Leizear
(540) 219-4096

This report may be reprinted without SPS consent, however SPS and the Research Author must be credited.

1.) Jason Rundell (23)
Hit by car street skating (ME)
Teen killed while skateboarding

2.) Clinton Kirby Roberts (13)
Hit by vehicle while street skating (AL)
Classmates remember teen killed in skateboard accident

3.) Travis Baldwin (14)
Hit by truck while street skating (Oildale, CA)

4.) Reid Menzer (14)
Hit by car while street skating (PA)

5.) Blake Hand (14)
Hit and run while street skating (BIRMINGHAM, Ala)

6.) Unnamed man (age unknown)
Struck by truck while street skating (WV)

7.) Dustin Wayne Prine (16)
Struck by truck while skating street (TX)

8.) Austin Sparks (13)
Struck by driver while skating street (TX)

9.) Michael Santos (19)
Struck and killed by car while skating street (HI)

10.) Albert Vasquez (1
Struck and killed by truck while skating street (TX)

11.) Tony Mitchell (1
Struck and killed by truck(NM)

12.) Dillon Meheut (9)
Struck and killed by car while skating street (TX)

13.) David Allen Hays (23)
Died after holding onto car (Rancho Penasquitos, CA)

14.) Travis Gracey (21
Struck and killed by motorcycle while skating street (Seattle, WA)

15.) Brian Samson (19)
Died after holding onto golf cart (FL)

16.) Josh Kilnger (19)
Died after falling while skating a hill (NV)

17.) Ian Campbell (7)
Died after struck by a car while skating (Soulsbyville, CA)

18.) Michael Goodman (15)
Died after falling from his board while skating street (Orlando, FL)

19.) Matthew Gallops (11
Struck and killed by a car while skating street (Savanna, GA)

20.) Austin M. Gagner (10)
Hit by a bus as he was crossing the street on a skateboard (Rice Lake, MN)

21.) Frank Russo (13)
Struck head while skating in a skatepark, not wearing helmet (Port Angeles, WA)

22.) Ashley Philips (16)
Struck by a car while riding in the street (Clearwater, FL)

23.) Jonathan Brock (17)
Struck by a car while riding in the street (Conway, SC)

24.) Brett Neeley (21)
Lost control rounding a corner while riding in the street and struck his head (Provo, UT)

25.) Joshua McSweeney (15)
Died after being in a coma due to injuries sustained when he was struck by a car while riding in the street (San Antonio, TX)

26.) Jeremy Best (15)
Died from injuries after being struck by an SUV while crossing a highway on a skateboard (West Islip, NY)

27.) Gabriel Guerrero (15)
Struck and killed while skating in the street, by drunk driver in a vehicle with headlights turned off (Harlingen, TX)

28.) Bob Wooldridge (44)
Struck by a car while skating in a neighborhood street (Silver Spring, MD)

29.) Bob Samson (23)
Fell from skateboard and died when dog ran in front of him (Alaska)

30.) Tommy Michalson (12)
Died while skating street (Crested Butte, CO)

31.) Jeremy Allen Suntken (20)
Died while skating prefab skatepark (Red Wing, Wis)

32.) Matthew Monroe (15)
Struck and killed by Amtrak train while skateboarding with headphones on (LANCASTER COUNTY, PA)

33.) Steve Helton (49)
Fell and died while skating longboard (Buhl, Idaho)

34.) Justin Freeman (12)
Struck and killed by auto while skating street (Everett, WA)

35.) Jack Pellicano (14)
Struck and killed by truck while skating street (Newport Beach, CA)

36.) Robert Jay Shenk (25)
Struck and killed by truck while skating street (BUENA PARK, Calif)

37.) Jonathan Tyler Litton (14)
Struck and killed by truck while skating street (Hiddenite, NC)

38.) D.J. Epperson (13)
Died while street skating (Omaha, NE)

39.) Christian Corneau (14)
Died while street skating, hit by an automobile. He was wearing a helmet at the time of death; his skateboard was broken in half. (Dallas, TX)

40.) Rebecca Mead (21)
died when she fell off her out-of-control skateboard and hit her head

41.) David Bruce Schleiden (15)
Stuck and killed by a car in traffic (Cape Coral, FL)

42.) Patrick Butler (20)
Died street skating in Aberdeen, MD

Monday, November 30, 2009

Darren Harper, Pro-Skater from DC

Coming from South East DC, Darren Harper changed his life and his future through skateboarding. Darren is a friend and supporter of many of our skaters in Silver Spring. The 2nd interviewer (wearing a green shirt) is Jimmy Pelletier, who's been skating for 21 years, and who attended the November 4th meeting in support of the proposed skate spot in Woodside Park.

The Changing Face of Skateboarding

Silver Spring skatersThis is what most Silver Spring skaters look like today — the vast majority of them are minorities. I've talked to quite a few who rarely, if ever, attended summer camps or other programs outside of school. I've talked to many kids who feel like skateboarding has saved their lives, and that if it weren't for skating, their lives would have taken a different turn. This is why so many of our kids are so passionate about skating. And this is why we should not only allow kids to skate — but encourage them to.

One day when I ran into a group of skaters getting citations for skating at Discovery, the police officer was being really nice and he kept suggesting other places for the kids to skate, and asking them why they didn't skate in those locations. The answer to each and every one of those suggestions: "we get kicked out there too."

Skater-hating in DTSS

Most kids who skateboard in downtown Silver Spring will tell you there's a very intense anti-skateboarding and anti-skateboarder atmosphere in DTSS. Here's some of what contributes to that atmosphere:
  • The DTSS no-skateboarding rule and its enforcement. I and many skateboarders in the area have not just been asked to stop skating on Ellsworth, we've been yelled at, harassed, and threatened with police action, and two skaters reported being physically grabbed by DTSS security, and one said his skateboard was taken (the skater said he was able to snatch his board back.)
  • I and other skaters were threatened with police action for simply standing on Ellsworth Drive while carrying our skateboards. Some kids had been skating, but they had definitely and clearly stopped when we were told to leave Ellsworth, and when a DTSS security guard actually reported us to the police via his walkie talkie.
  • I'm not aware of a no-skateboard sign in the Majestic Theater, but they don't allow patrons to carry skateboards into their theaters.
  • Fuddruckers has a sign near the entrance stating that patrons cannot bring boards inside the restaurant.
  • Several skaters reported being kicked out of Potbelly's for carrying skateboards. I have not seen a no-skateboard sign in the store.
  • The new Rainbow store in City Place recently asked me to leave their premises, (I'm a 48 year old mom), for carrying a skateboard inside their store.
There's a long history here. Richard Jaeggi wrote about it back in 2005:
Nowhere in Silver Spring is the prohibition of skateboards more rigorously enforced than in the heart of Silver Sprung on Ellsworth Drive.
Since Montgomery County does not have an anti-skateboarding ordinance, I find it difficult to understand how and why the lawful act of riding on a skateboard or even carrying a skateboard is often treated like some terrible crime in DTSS. And I can't understand any of this in light of County Executive Ike Leggett's letter to DTSS, after photographer Chip Py was almost arrested for taking pictures in in DTSS back in 2007:
"The County considers Ellsworth to be a public forum permitting the free and unfettered exercise of First Amendment rights by residents of the County and its visitors to the extent as those rights are exercisable by residents and visitors to the County on any public sidewalk or public street within the County...I trust that you will agree with me and will ensure that your rules and regulations for the use of Ellsworth by the public appropriately recognize and protect the First Amendment rights of residents and visitors."
And I can't understand why, after emailing the DTSS Property Manager and her head of security on November 14th, asking what legal basis they're using for prohibiting skateboarding on Ellsworth Drive, I still have not gotten an answer.

I question the rule and the way its been enforced. And I seriously question the logic of essentially criminalizing kids for participating in a sport.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christian Villatoro, Silver Spring Skater

Christian Villatoro, Silver Spring SkaterSilver Spring has amazingly talented skateboarders, but unlike our most talented football, or basketball, or soccer players, or exceptional athletes in most any other sport, our skateboarders' names are never mentioned in the press, they don't get the opportunity to shine at awards ceremonies, and beyond the community of skaters and their friends, no one knows how much they've accomplished or how hard they've worked to achieve their goals.

Christian Villatoro17 year old Blake senior Christian Villatoro is one of the most dedicated and fearless athletes Silver Spring has ever produced. He has a super-human level of determination, and does not understand the concept of giving up. He inspires younger skaters to achieve skills that may otherwise seem impossible, were he not here to prove what is possible.

Look for our upcoming interview with Christian, on the impact skating has had on his life, where his determination comes from, and his frustrations with not having a legal place to skate in Silver Spring.

Backside Flip at Courthouse 4

Jumping 8 Stairs at Courthouse

Tre Flip Big 4

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Why Silver Spring Skaters Are So Frustrated

Here's a list of some of the things we've been told over the past year (since we lost lower Ellsworth Drive for skating):
  • We were supposed to get an area behind whole Foods, and that was supposed to happen in early '09, weeks after we lost Ellsworth. Never happened.

  • In February '09, we were told we could have the alley beside the DTSS security office. That DID happen...for all of two weeks, before it was taken away and they started kicking us out.

  • We were told DTSS was working on getting us the pavement between Whole Foods and Hollywood Video. Never happened.

  • In May AFI asked DTSS to host a skateboarding event, to promote a skateboarding movie AFI planned to screen. Never happened. (After a 3-month fiasco of trying to help DTSS plan this thing, with the date being changed from June 21st, to July 21st, to August 21st, we were finally offered such a low-budget tired-sounding event that no one would have bothered to come.)

  • We were supposedly on track to get a skatepark in the space the library currently sits on, once that's torn down. Not gonna happen.

  • We were supposedly going to have a tiny "skate spot" in Woodside Park this January. We were asked to support it. We did support it, asking skaters to send supportive emails, and asking skaters to attend the meeting (30 did), and I even attended a 'pre-meeting' that I initiated on November 4th, the day of the community meeting. Construction on that skate spot has now been delayed, and I'm not convinced it's actually going to be built.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Skaters for Public Skateparks: Response to Just Up The Pike

In response to Dan Reed's phenomenal post the case for a downtown skatepark (this time, with numbers), Publishing Director of Skaters for Public Skateparks Peter Whitley, commented on that blog post, making the point that "skate spots" are not meant to replace skateparks, but to augment them:
I was thrilled to see Skaters for Public Skateparks' material used so effectively. As the co-author, along with Kent Dahlgren and Miki Vuckovich (both of whom are with Tony Hawk Foundation, though Kent was SPS' founding Director) we couldn't be more delighted to see this information being used exactly how we intended.

When we began talking to communities about "skate spots" a few years ago we were concerned that some would see them as the "perfect solution" to their skatepark needs. While the idea of augmenting the neighborhood skateparks with satellite facilities is fundamentally sound, many budget-minded bureaucrats see the skate spot as a "miniature skatepark." They're not. They are meant to extend a skatepark's level of service into isolated or underserved pockets...NOT as a bedrock facility for a whole community.

What may happen is that the skate spot fails due to over-use; a victim of its own success. In their enthusiasm to use the spot, the skaters may spill out to the nearby parking lots or simply move back to those inappropriate spots that are popular now.

That can lead to two public reactions:

1. "Look at all those skaters trashing up the place. They don't deserve a better skatepark."

2. "The skaters are STILL skating on my ledges! That new skatepark apparently doesn't help at all!"

The losers here are the very people the skate spot was meant to benefit. The solution is for the local advocates to continue to push for a long-term plan that acknowledges the community need and sets into motion plans for meeting it. Thankfully you guys have some AWESOME advocates on that task.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Best Blog Post Ever

In an age of rampant obesity among teens, inactivity, too much time spent in front of TV and computer screens, rising teen depression, along with the lure of drugs and gangs, and the many other reasons why communities should actually be promoting skateboarding and encouraging kids to skate, rather than aggressively prohibiting the sport and marginalizing the kids who pursue it, it's just awesome to see someone who has a voice in this community speaking up for so many kids who do not:
"Give these kids a prominent place in the community and they'll show it respect. Push them aside and they'll act out..."
Dan Reed of Just Up The Pike offers one of the most powerful and compelling arguments ever written in support of skateboarders. Tony Hawk would love this.

» the case for a downtown skatepark (this time, with numbers)

Woodside Skate Spot Project Delayed

Yesterday I got confirmation from Park & Planning that construction on the Woodside Skate Spot project has been delayed. In a November 9th letter to Parks, sent as a follow-up after the meeting on November 4th, the Woodside Civic Association asked for the delay. I asked how long it's been delayed, but did not get a response.

In the email response to my question about the status of the skate spot, I also got this question and comment:
"Did you write the postings from a skateboard Mom? I don’t believe they are helping support a skatespot."
I replied saying that if any information on this blog is factually incorrect, to please let me know and I'll be happy to correct it.

But let's not change the subject here — I along with the rest of the Silver Spring skateboarding community were in no way involved with planning or designing this project. We found out about it completely by accident, when a former Silver Spring skater who now lives in West Virginia sent us a link to Park & Planning's web site. At that point I and several other skaters contacted Park & Planning, and I was asked to help to drum up support for the skate spot. But we had zero input on any decisions that were made.

I've been advocating for Silver Spring skaters for a year now, telling anyone who would listen that these kids need a legal place to skate. I contacted many people and organizations, telling them about how important skating is to these kids — how passionate they are about it, and about how strongly many of them feel about the positive impact its had on their lives. And I've also been talking about how unsafe it is for skaters to not have a legal and safe place to skate.

After all of these efforts, I was very surprised to find out that an actual skate spot was being planned in Woodside Park. And I was more than happy to do everything I could to support it.

I want so much for Silver Spring's skaters to have a legitimate skating facility. But the more I looked at the details, the more I questioned whether this particular project could resolve many of our issues — the idea of intentionally building the smallest skate spot possible in a skating community as huge as Silver Spring's, is in itself problematic.

And what I won't do, is stop posting facts and data that are completely relevant to this project, in order to further a scenario that could result in the following:
  • We get a skate spot that that allows very few skaters to skate, and then face even more aggressive enforcement of skating prohibitions elsewhere in downtown
  • We get a skate spot so tiny, and supporting so few of our skaters, that it results in intense competition over who's going to get to skate there, potentially causing fights and division in what is now a very peaceful, cohesive community
  • We get an "interim" skating facility (as Woodside Skate Spot is intended to be) only to have it snatched back from the kids if things don't work out perfectly
  • We get a skate spot with very little chance of succeeding because of issues like lack of a porta-potty (skaters tend to skate for hours and drink lots of liquids — where would they relieve themselves?)
  • We get a skate spot that becomes way to crowded to be safe, particularly for younger skaters
When someone forwarded me the letter that Woodside Civic Association sent to Parks, my initial reaction was pretty bad. My feeling was that Park & Planning couldn't possibly provide the level of details they were asking for — such as any kind of accurate projection of potential users.

But after doing some research I discovered that a number of WCA's questions actually could be answered. For instance, the question they asked about how many skaters would be able to use this skate spot — Skaters for Public Skateparks uses a very logical formula for determining how much space a single skater needs to do a number of tricks (1,500 square feet), and then they look at how many skaters can use that same space concurrently (10 skaters).

Based on that SPS formula, the 3,000 square foot Woodside Skate Spot would only support 20 skaters. And the Silver Spring skateboarding community is huge.

There are critical issues to look at when considering the amount of space required to build a successful skatepark. Many tricks that skaters do require a lot of run-up space — and many other tricks require a lot of landing space. When jumping stairs, for instance, a skater is propelled forward with so much force that it's pretty much impossible to just stop cold when landing. You need space to ride after landing. There's one skatepark that has a trash can very close to the bottom of a set of stairs, and skaters have to be very careful to not crash into that. Things like that can cause serious safety issues.

It's because of issues like these that SPS highly recommends that skaters themselves be involved with the process of planning and designing skateparks. Park & Planning is responsible for facilities for many different sports, and they can't be expected to be experts on all of them. And skateboarding is fairly new and has undergone drastic changes in the past 5 years or so. Not many people outside of skateboarding are aware of those changes, or how they've impacted skaters and skatepark design. The simple answer is to just talk to skaters.

The overarching issue here is that we need to begin to engage young people in the process of community building. It's through engagement that we can begin to find out what they really need, rather than making assumptions about what we think they need. And it's through engagement alone that we can have a positive influence, and that they begin to feel like valued members of our community.

For a very long time now, skateboarders in Silver Spring have felt marginalized, which creates alienation — and nothing good ever comes from that.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Huge Thank You to Dan Reed at Just Up The Pike

After a year of desperately trying (and mostly failing) to get community leaders to pay attention to the issues our skateboarding youth face in Silver Spring, I am deeply and profoundly grateful and thankful for the following 'tweets' posted by Dan Reed of Just Up The Pike on his Twitter account:
"if you haven't followed @ssskaters or skateboard mom's blog, you should #dtss #silverspring"
and this:
"after seeing this I'm convinced #dtss & #silverspring could use a full-on skatepark, not just a skate spot: @ssskaters"
Just Up The Pike is the most popular blog that covers Silver Spring (its focus is on East County), and while I've had trouble getting many current leaders to pay attention to these issues, Dan Reed is one of our future leaders, and he is paying attention.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Dozens" of Skaters To Be Cleared From Downtown Streets?

Photo by Jose Reyes
From the Gazette (bolding emphasis is mine):
The county parks department plans to build a skate spot in the downtown Silver Spring neighborhood of Woodside Urban Park in a move that could take dozens of young skateboarders off the busy streets of downtown Silver Spring and put them in the neighboring park instead.
How's that supposed to happen with a 3,000 square foot skate spot that can only support 20 skaters?

And where will all the rest of Silver Spring's skaters go? If past is prologue, they're going to continue skating the same spots they've been skating for years, and not much will change. What is likely to change, however, is that the number of kids who skateboard in Silver Spring, which has risen dramatically over the past few years, is going to continue to rise — at least according to the National Sporting Goods Association (pdf):
Skateboarding 10-Year Winner in U.S. Sports Participation Growth

2008 - MOUNT PROSPECT, IL – Among sports and recreation activities that grew more than 15% the past 10 years, skateboarding led the way with a 74.1% growth, according to the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA). Data contained in NSGA's annual "Sports Participation – Series I and II" reports, which are now available, shows skateboarding grew from 5.8 million to 10.1 million participants between 1998 and 2007. Target shooting had the second highest 10-year growth, 63.3% to 20.9 million participants.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Explosion of Extreme Sport"

From the book Social Issues in Sport (Ronald B. Woods, 2007):
Explosion of Extreme Sport

Recent studies by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) and the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) show a dramatic shift in participation among teens and preteens from mainstream sports such as basketball and football to extreme or action sports. Since 1990, participation in football, baseball, and basketball among 6- to 17-year-olds is down more than 30%, while participation in action sports like snowboarding, skateboarding, and in-line skating is up in excess of 600% (SGMA 2005a).

Woodside Skate Spot Will Support 20 Skaters

Skaters for Public Skateparks says that 1,500 square feet of space can support 10 skaters, and the Department of Parks is planning for a 3,000 square foot park in Woodside.

If part of the intention in building the Woodside Skate Spot is to "clear downtown Silver Spring streets" as a recent Gazette article suggests — that's unlikely to happen with a skate spot that can only support 20 skaters, in a community that has about 100 avid skateboarders.

From the SPS presentation, 10 Things That Make a Skatepark Great, here's the right way to plan the size of a skatepark:


Wednesday, November 18, 2009


It was foolishness, even when viewed from a purely business perspective, to kick skateboarders out of lower Ellsworth Drive. And I wonder what that decision has cost this area, purely in terms of dollars and cents.

The Discovery ledge, built with handmade Jerusalem marble, in perfect condition before skaters were kicked off of Ellsworth, was trashed. How much did it cost to rebuild that? It now has big, ugly bumps on it — anti-skating devices, I'm sure. And how much other property was trashed after we lost Ellsworth?

In Baltimore, skaters walked around the city taking pictures of all of the skateboard-related damage, which city leaders later estimated to have cost about $1 million. That convinced the city the most cost-effective thing to do would be to just go ahead and build a real skate park.

One week after Ellsworth was shut down, I spoke with Gary Stith who was then head of the Silver Spring Regional Office. He told me he was trying to identify a new location for skaters, and that within two weeks from that point we were likely to have a new spot. It's almost a year later. No new spot.

And it's 5 years later than the day Silver Spring skater Lisa Jaeggi organized a skate-protest, encouraging skaters to take back Ellsworth, since it is, after all, public space.

While the cost of skateboard-related property damage is likely very high, the real cost to this town has nothing to do with money, and it has everything to do with losing the trust of so many kids in this community, and them losing the feeling of being a part of this community, when something so incredibly important to them was taken away without a second thought.

We are now told we'll be getting a "skate spot" in Woodside Park. But the Woodside Civic Association isn't happy with the information they've been given and they're asking for construction to be delayed until the Spring of 2010. That means if we do get it, we'll have yet another summer with no legal place to skate. And if it is built, it will only be a 3,000 square foot park.

At the meeting on November 4th a rep from the Parks Department told us their intention was to design the smallest park possible, in order to minimize the impact on the community. They said that they asked a skatepark company how small they could go, and still have a viable park.

So we're looking at the possibility of getting a tiny "skate spot" (not an actual skatepark), when there are approximately 100 skateboarders who skate in Silver Spring. And since skateboarding is the fastest growing sport in America, as teens are trending away from team sports and towards action sports, that number is likely to grow significantly.

According to Skaters for Public Skateparks, the organization for skatepark-related data, 1,500 square feet of skatepark space can support 10 skaters. That means the planned Woodside Skate Spot can be expected to support no more than 20 skaters. And I can tell you from lots of experience skating a 6,500 square foot park, that 20 skaters in a 3,000 square foot park will be seriously pushing it.

So if the intention is to give even half of the local skaters a place to skate — the Woodside Skate Spot isn't going to do that.

And each day that we continue this game of cat and mouse, of 'chase the skaters' from one illegal spot to the next, it costs this town more — more money because of property damage, and in more kids in our community feeling alienated and marginalized, and feeling like the adults in this community do not care about their needs.

Was the decision to shut down Ellsworth really worth all that?

Skateboarding in Congress AND the White House

So...Tony Hawk can skateboard in the White House, and they're skating in the halls of Congress...but we can't skateboard in Silver Spring? (Skating starts at 5:20 in the video.)

The Colbert Report
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Something Fishy Going On...

Why is it that people I don't even like or talk to, are suddenly trying to "help" and "encourage" me to push for the Woodside Skate Spot? Sending me secretive spy messages with information from the Woodside listserve, and making sure I know about various meetings, and sharing strategy tips, when these very same people won't personally speak up for skaters themselves?

To you listserve-Mata Haris — I don't trust you. Since you claim to care about these kids...then man up, or woman up, and SPEAK up. And quit the skullduggery, because right now you're not helping anyone.

Let the Skateboarders Skate

On Friday evening I sent an email to Jennifer Nettles, Property Manager of DTSS, and Mike Petty, Head of Security, asking what legal basis they're using for kicking out skateboarders on Ellsworth Drive. We previously blogged about the Gazette quoting Nettles saying that Ellsworth Drive is public space, with Paul Liquorie of MCPD confirming that. And since it is public space, DTSS Security needs a legal basis for telling people they can't skateboard on that street.

While the main part of Ellsworth Drive is far from an ideal place to skate, and while we know that DTSS management doesn't want skating going on there, those facts don't provide justification for kicking skaters out, and for telling anyone they can't skate there.

I have often attempted to argue this point with DTSS Security Guards, who always resorted to telling me "we have a no-skateboarding sign!" But that's incredibly weak. Anyone can post a no-skateboarding sign...on private property. But we're talking about PUBLIC property here. Property owned and governed by Montgomery County, and subject to Montgomery County and Maryland laws.

What laws are you using to tell me and other skaters that we can't skate there? I think that's a very reasonable question. I'm still waiting for an answer.

And that no-skateboarding sign? It's gone. So if DTSS Security can longer point to a sign as justification for kicking skaters out, what justification are they going to use now?

Back in 2005 Gandhi Brigade leader Richard Jaeggi wrote about DTSS' rigorous enforcement of the skateboarding prohibition, and his daughter Lisa Jaeggi, a skateboarder herself, made a short film of a skate-protest to encourage skaters to stand up for their rights" and skate on Ellsworth.

Here's what Richard said in the Takoma Voice:
Nowhere in Silver Spring is the prohibition of skateboards more rigorously enforced than in the heart of Silver Sprung on Ellsworth Drive. White shirt security guards, red shirt Urban Crewmembers, and brown shirt Montgomery County officers are vigilant in their goal of making the town safe from skateboarding teens.
While Lisa Jaeggi's skate-protest may have lessened the heat momentarily, I have personally been harassed and kicked out of Ellsworth many times over the course of the past year. Same street, same rigorous enforcement of the same suspect policy.

I can't make anyone answer an email, and they can ignore my question if they want to. But they can't ignore this issue. And without a legal basis for prohibiting skateboarding, DTSS Security is going to have to cut the crap, and let the skateboarders skate.

Monday, November 16, 2009

From 2005 to 2009: Same As It Ever Was

Ineteresting. Richard Jaeggi is the first community leader I approached back in early 2008 when the Downtown Silver Spring Shopping District along with the Silver Spring Regional Office, stopped allowing skateboarding on lower Ellsworth Drive. I didn't get a lot of support, other than him strongly encouraging me to get skaters involved with Mixed Unity.

After attending my first Mixed Unity meeting, I told Richard I didn't believe I'd be able to interest skaters in those meetings. Our needs were more immediate — we had just lost the one legal place for skateboarders to skate in all of downtown Silver Spring.

I knew that skaters, almost all teens and many of them very young, would be roaming the streets of downtown in search of places to skate. I did not believe then nor do I believe now, that it's safe for them to do that. And I didn't believe they should have to attend meetings or be involved with planning a concert in order to get help and support in addressing such a pressing, immediate need.

The one thing — the only thing I was looking for then, was for someone in this community with a voice to have our backs and help us get skating back on Ellsworth Drive. Or at the very least, to help us to get an alternative location, particularly so that skaters wouldn't have to spend the entire summer without a legal place to skate.

Since that time, many of our skaters have reported being harassed and even physically attacked by security guards, and they've run into all kinds of safety issues, like when a skater was recently body-slammed to the ground near the Metro Station by a man carrying a fake badge and pretending to be a cop.

What I had no clue about when I went to Richard about skating on Ellsworth Drive, was just how much work he and his kids had done to speak up for skaters' rights in downtown. They did great work back then — amazing work. And just like his kids and other skaters in Silver Spring needed his support back then, they continue to need it today — not just for a tiny skate spot in Woodside Park, where the 100 or so Silver Spring skaters can't possibly all skate (and which the Woodside Civic Association has asked to have delayed) — but for the same thing he and Lisa fought for back in 2005, the right to skate on Ellsworth Drive, and any other public space in Silver Spring.

I just found the minutes for a Citizens Advisory Board meeting from April 2005, in which Richard Jaeggi spoke passionately about the need for skaters to have a skating facility in Silver Spring. He and his daughter Lisa did a video presentation of a skate-protest they staged in DTSS. The skate-protest set out to take back Ellsworth Drive, a public street, from a private company which had been denying kids the right to skateboard there.

Following are some of Richard's comments in support of skateboarding in Silver Spring.
Skateboard Park Video Presentation

Richard Jaeggi presented a video of his daughter's promotional piece focusing on the need for a Skateboard Park in downtown Silver Spring as follows:
  • Mr. Jaeggi stated that the presentation was not taking any positions on the location but the need for a Skateboard Park.
  • His daughter had interviewed skaters, security guards, businesses, Glenn Kreger at Park and Planning, and Gary Stith, Director of the Silver Spring Regional Center, to compile the presentation you are about to see.
    Skateboarders in the video said:
  • Skateboarders are always being kicked out of places they skate. They look at skating as part of their life, not just a fad. It’s their way of experiencing freedom. “You can do what you want, when you want and how you want while skating. It‘s better than video games. You get to be outdoors, getting fresh air and be with friends.” Most skaters skate every day if they can.
Following are some of the comments that came after that presentation.
Discussion: Richard Jaeggi concludes that: We should make a commitment; these kids spend a lot of money in the downtown. Let's not just focus on adult needs. It's a really good chance to do something for the kids. There is a lot of energy here and it's a great way for the next generation of Silver Springer's to get inoculated into the County process. There are a lot of reasons not to do certain things, but I would encourage us to find a solution and a site that's good for neighbors and for Silver Spring.
Marilyn Seitz: I don't see many things for children to do. We need a place for them to go. Back when I was a kid a lot of churches had teen nights. We had places to go and they were safe. There are not many places for them to go.
Korey Hartwich: Only commercial places like movies and of course kids don’t have that much money so they don’t get to go to the movies that often. There are really not that many places to go.

The Decisions We Make

The decisions we make have consequences, and because there are no legal places to skate in all of downtown Silver Spring, skaters are essentially criminalized for doing something completely innocent and something that keeps them active and healthy. Large numbers of teens are struggling with obesity, depression, and inactivity — 16% of American teens are obese, about 20% of teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood, and 65% don't meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity. But skaters tend to pursue their sport at every opportunity, skaters are happy when they're skating, and skateboarding provides them a ready group of friends and thriving social lives.

As 14 y.o. Chris "PacMan" Santis said at a recent meeting, regarding the people he skates with — "we're family". That's how a lot of skaters feel about each other. Skateboarders exemplify so many of the traits we should be encouraging in kids. They don't care about what race other skaters are. They don't care about what their backgrounds or religions are, or what neighborhoods they come from, or whether they're underprivileged or wealthy.

While many people who don't skate seem to think of it as a very solitary activity, it's anything but that. The saddest sight for me to see is a lone skater roaming the streets in search of a group to skate with.

On my Facebook status I recently posted "skateboarding = happiness". Quite a few skaters clicked the "like" button because that's how many of them feel. Is it really that difficult to allow these kids to do something that makes them so happy? Is it really that difficult to choose to help them and not harass them?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

VIDEO: Ellsworth Drive in DTSS is Public Space

PacMan and Skateboard Mom skating on Ellsworth Drive. Will DTSS security chase us out like they usually do? Watch the video to find out. (Thanks to Tony Cao for filming.)

Who Knew? Richard Jaeggi Proved My Point In 2005

skateboarding on Ellsworth DriveIn September 2005, Richard Jaeggi who is currently leader of Gandhi Brigade and an adult supervisor of Mixed Unity, wrote an article for the Takoma Voice in his column Big Acorn...addressing exactly the same issue Silver Spring skateboarders are struggling with today.

Richard's kids all skateboard, and in this article he explains how his daughter Lisa researched the issues and found this:
"In her research my daughter discovered that the eastern portion of Ellsworth Drive, the part in front of City Place, was not covered by the lease agreement. One third of the street remained public and was presumably governed by the public laws of Montgomery County — and, it seemed, still subject to the First Amendment. Despite their policy, security guards had no jurisdiction to enforce PFA rules on a public street."
Now I don't know what the managers of DTSS have been telling their security staff because they sure seem to think they DO have the right to restrict peoples' rights on ALL of Ellsworth Drive in DTSS. Somebody needs to send them a memo because I and virtually every skater I know has been harassed and chased off of Ellsworth Drive for skating.

I've been skateboarding for a year now and the harassment started even before DTSS and the Silver Spring Regional Office stopped allowing skateboarding on the lower part of Ellsworth — where DTSS security clearly has no jurisdiction and no right to complain about anything.

But even on the main part of Ellsworth, Richard's kids, Lisa, Daniel, and Isaac, staged a skate-protest way back in 2005, and the security guards who had been aggressively chasing out skateboarders, did absolutely nothing. Why? Because they have no legal right to:
"Lisa and my sons, Daniel and Isaac, concocted a plan to test this theory. On Saturday morning skateboarders began to converge on our house. After feeding them pancakes and orange juice, Lisa gathered the motley crew of about fifteen teens in a circle on the driveway for a pep talk. She told them that this was about their right to stand up and contest something that was unfair. She made them promise to maintain discipline: to be respectful and to let her do the talking if security guards or police confronted them. In high spirits and ready for anything, they set off on their skateboards for their rendezvous with destiny uncertain how this would all play out.

I had volunteered to be their cameraman so I had an insider-outsider perspective on the day. I taped them as they crossed Fenton from the east; skateboards in hand, they were at the same time giddy, anxious, and determined. When they reached the forbidden Silver Sprung they smoothly dropped their boards on to the street and one-by-one proceeded to skate single file around the perimeter of the road-- being careful to avoid the western part of Ellsworth.

Personal experience had prepared each of them for the worst: a stern reprimand with threats of tougher consequences for future disobedience. Nothing had prepared them for what actually happened. The security guards said nothing and did nothing. Wordlessly they did the slow, determined cop-walk past the growing ranks of skateboarding teens."

The drums of Ellsworth — A protest becomes a party