This spring, a resurgence of attention to the city’s ban on skateboarding at LOVE Park occurred in Philadelphia, with a wide range of non-skateboarding supporters.
Last year Philly’s LOVE Park was renovated, and city officials promised skateboarders a replacement to LOVE in the form of a street-oriented skatepark. Sam Katz is Mayor Street’s only competitor in the mayoral race in November 2004. Katz believes that banning skateboarding at LOVE sends a negative message out to the young people who once thought Philadelphia was a hip place to be, and he openly states that if elected, he will re-open LOVE to skateboarding.
At a recent press conference held at LOVE Park, Katz challenged the city laws and rolled a few feet on a skateboard before falling. “It’s backward thinking that could keep us from being among the elite cities in the country,” stated Katz in the Philadelphia Daily News.
Since 2002, the city has enforced a law fining skateboarders 25 dollars for skateboarding on any private or public property other then roadways. City council has stated that skateboarders caused thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to the park and that the business community is demanding stiffer punishment.
The Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund, a Philadelphia-based organization, has consistently represented the local skateboard community and informed the council that alternatives have been promised but without results.
On June 12, 2003, Philadelphia City Law 10-610, which states that skateboarding is illegal on all public and private property in Philadelphia, was amended with an increase to the fine, bringing it up to 75 dollars, and also allows for board confiscation.
Meanwhile, an organization called The Independence Hall Association (IHA) created an activist Web site in an effort to free LOVE Park. The IHA believes that skateboarding at LOVE Park is part of the city’s valuable history and should be preserved. The site features an online petition and an “I skated LOVE Park” guest book.
The IHA feels that LOVE Park can be renovated back to its original design, and hours can be posted for skating times, allowing residents the ability to use the plaza for lunch. You can visit the IHA website at ushistory.org.
Back at the City Planning Commission, plans for a new skatepark are in the works. The Commission gave Franklin’s Paine a CD containing a design vision for a skatepark adjacent to Philadelphia’s Art Museum. The plans call for a wide range of skateboarding styles, including a 70s-style snake run, vert ramp, bowl, and a series of ledges similar to LOVE Park. The city is researching designers and builders for the facility and stated that a request for qualifications will be posted this summer. Neither a schedule nor funding sources have been released to the public, but November’s approaching election will likely speed up the process.
In reaction to such a wide range of attention, the Philadelphia skateboarding community formed their own network organization-the Skateboard Advocacy Network. Director Scott Kip stated that the mission of the group was: “to ensure that the business and activity of skateboarding is protected and maintained as well as evolved with the consent of its associates and participants.” The network plans to assist in the process of building effective skateparks, work at protecting the rights of skateboarders, and hopes to free LOVE Park.