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Archive for Thursday, March 28, 1996

SKATEBOARDING IS GOOD OR BAD

March 28, 1996

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Skateboarding is a trend that is here to stay, especially if Lawrence builds a skateboarding park, skaters say.

So the dudes just want to do a few ollies, flips and grinds. What's the big deal?

To many downtown business owners, employees and patrons, the hassle is that it translates into skateboarders whizzing by while doing jumps and flipping their boards.

But from the skateboarders' point of view, people are uptight because they just don't understand a trend that is becoming more popular than ever in Lawrence.

"It's the only thing we can really do," said Justin Swisher, a 15-year-old Lawrence High School sophomore. "It's fun when you can learn a new trick and then do it."

Swisher, who started skating about a year and three months ago, is part of a wave of youths and young adults who have taken up boarding within the last year or so.

No one is quite sure why there's been a resurgence in the sport, which has encountered several peaks and valleys since the first primitive skateboards appeared in the late 1950s, but John Niswonger, co-owner of Let It Ride, a skateboard and ski equipment shop at 609 Vt., offered a theory.

He said snowboarding, one of the fastest growing recreational activities on ski slopes, has created a skateboarding boon.

"The two are kind of similar," he said.

Closer to home, where there are few mountains down which to snowboard, local teens say Let It Ride, which opened in June, 1995, has spurred the sport's popularity here.

"It's pretty big in Lawrence," said skater Gabe Brummett, a 16-year-old LHS sophomore. "I think the shop had a lot to do with it."

"Before, there was no where you could buy a board," added Edward Krueger, 14, a Central Junior High School seventh-grader. "You had to go to Kansas City."

Although no one knows an exact number of skaters in Lawrence, local teens estimated there are at least 150 regulars ages 14 and up, and a lot more younger children.

"It's just going to get bigger and bigger," Justin said.

As the number of skateboarders have increased, so have the number of complaints and hassles that skaters have to deal with.

The city in October 1990 passed an ordinance that makes it illegal to skate along or in the alleys adjacent to Massachusetts between Sixth and 11th streets; areas near the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.; and along and 1,000 feet on either side of Jayhawk Boulevard at Kansas University.

The cost for being busted and getting a ticket is a $15 fine, plus $21.50 in court costs -- $36.50 total.

Skaters said that although most members of the city's police force are fairly cool about not giving tickets, the possibility exists.

"I got one for skating right out here in front of the (Let It Ride) store," Gabe said. "It's not illegal here." His ticket eventually was thrown out in court.

Edward said he also got a ticket that eventually was thrown out, after he was told to go to municipal court instead of juvenile court.

Lately, downtown business owners have been complaining more about an increased presence of skateboarders.

A solution for everybody could be a skateboarding park, which the city commission's staff is now investigating.

Skaters said a riding park in Lawrence will be as popular as jumping curbs or gaining speed along steep straightaways.

"Everyone will use it," Justin said. "People from other cities will come. We don't have anything like it anywhere in Kansas."

The proof for the popularity of a park can be seen on the pages of a petition calling for one to be constructed in Lawrence.

So far, supporters have about 1,500 signatures from individuals and several dozen businesses, Niswonger said.

The downtown business association and Lawrence Chamber of Commerce are working with the city to try to establish a park.

"We understand that kids like to skateboard, but it's just a safety issue downtown," said Lisa Blair, administrator for Downtown Lawrence Inc.

But Blair said downtown business owners know they can't simply expand the ban on skateboarding and/or increase punishments if an alternative isn't found.

"The kids have to have an outlet for it," she said.

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