- Why do we need a skatepark?
Skateboarding is a healthy, non-competitive sport that 5% of all Ann Arbor children aged 13-17 participate in, even with city and campus-wide anti-skateboarding bylaws in effect, and no local facilities provided for by the schools, city, or any private organization. The demonstrated need for such facilities has only grown, while tennis courts, soccer fields, and basketballs courts (provided in duplicate by parks and schools) sit empty most of the time. Not all children care, or can afford to participate in such competitive/organized team sports, especially outside of school.
Without a real public skatepark, Ann Arbor has effectively becomes a skatepark itself, with 868 violations of the city's anti-skateboarding ordinance between 2000 and 2004 on UM's campus alone. That's a lot of wasted time and effort on the part of law enforcement to deny our kids their sport.
- Don't we already have a skatepark at Buhr Park?
Buhr Park hosts a temporary skatepark every summer with a few pre-fabricated ramps scattered about the empty ice rink - the equivalent of a makeshift putt-putt golf course in a parking lot to a serious golfer. That it hasn't held the interest of skaters young or old isn't surprising, as skaters seek a challenging and flowing environment - something a flat, pre-fab park with minimal skatable surface area can't offer.
- Isn't skateboarding dangerous?
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, it is less dangerous than football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and ice hockey, and about as dangerous as softball! Skateboarding is more of a hazard to non-skating pedestrians, vehicles, and businesses downtown, the only place skaters have to skate locally.
- Aren't skateboarders a bunch of hooligans?
If skateboarding is outlawed, only outlaws will skate! ;-) To put this in perspective: a skateboarding ticket in Ann Arbor costs $50 (usually with the confiscation of the skateboard), while the penalty for marijuana possession is a $25 civil infraction! While it's true that skateboarding has long been a non-mainstream activity, it has also grown in popularity - 16 million Americans skateboard, and it is the subject of international sports competitions (ESPN's X-Games, etc.), major Hollywood movies, top-selling video games, etc. Local teachers, business owners, and professionals have been participating in the sport for decades, and are raising a second generation of young skateboarders in a city with nowhere to skate.
Although a highly individualistic / non-competitive activity, skateboarding is also very social, with a strong subcultural identity that transcends race, class, and community. Young skaters have professional role models of all nationalities, ethnicities, and backgrounds to look up to, and a supportive culture that strongly values creativity and diversity - in fashion, music, art, and sport. The excitement of seeing someone exceed their limits to land a trick for the first time - regardless of age, style, difficulty, or precedent - is what skaters cheer each other on for.
We hope that one day, Ann Arbor will be able to cheer us on in our quest for fun, that most highly evolved of human endeavors. :-)