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Council to consider enacting ban on skateboarding in business area
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Skateboarding soon could be banned in uptown Martinsville due to damage to property there caused by young people enjoying the sport.
City Attorney Eric Monday will present Martinsville City Council a proposed ordinance amendment to that effect during a future meeting.
An ordinance now prohibits anyone 14 years of age and older from skating or skateboarding on sidewalks citywide. It is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $50 fine, Monday said during Tuesday’s council meeting.
The amendment would ban skateboarding on all property — both public and private — in the central business district, officials indicated.
During its December meeting, the council found out that skateboarders doing tricks have damaged property at some sites uptown, including the recently refurbished former Henry County courthouse.
Monday told the council on Tuesday that benches, handrails and cement structures outside the building have been damaged by skateboarders.
“These people are not children,” he said, but rather teenagers who have been “extremely combative” when people have confronted them.
Councilman Mark Stroud said he was ashamed of the skateboarders’ actions.
“It’s a crying shame when they start tearing up” improvements to property that are “very beautiful,” said Stroud, who used to be a skateboarder.
Ethan Harr, a skateboarder from Ridgeway who was involved in designing a skateboard park at J. Frank Wilson Park on East Church Street Extension, apologized for the inappropriate behavior of some of his peers.
“Not all skateboarders are bad,” Vice Mayor Gene Teague emphasized. He said damages have been caused by a few people who seemed not to care.
Monday noted that damaging private property becomes a felony when the damage is valued at more than $1,000. He encouraged people to prosecute skateboarders for any damages done to their properties.
He also encouraged people who see skateboarders causing damage to call police immediately.
“There’s not a whole lot we can do about it” otherwise, he said.
Monday said the skateboard park at Wilson Park is “a very nice skating facility ... so it’s not like there’s not anywhere” to do the sport properly locally.
Harr said, however, that the skateboard park has problems with standing water following rainy weather.
The water can attract mosquitoes and damage skateboarding equipment, according to Harr and Stroud.
Teague asked Interim City Manager Leon Towarnicki to look into how the standing water could be eliminated there.
Harr, who made a similar request, said the skateboard park’s surface needs to be made more level.
Also Tuesday, the council recognized the city’s Victim/Witness Assistance Program for being named the Virginia Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund’s Program of the Year.
The program aims to ensure that police and the courts treat crime victims and witnesses with dignity and respect. The fund helps compensate crime victims for expenses such as medical bills, lost wages and counseling.
In honoring the program, the fund took into account factors such as the program’s level of devotion to helping victims recover from crimes and its efforts to make sure victims are compensated quickly, officials have said.
During the council meeting, the fund’s director, Mary Vail Ware, presented the award to the victim/witness program’s director, Vicky Belcher. However, the program actually received the award in December.
Belcher said she and Gwen Howell, the program’s assistant director, “consider it a great privilege to serve the community.”
Details of other actions taken during the council meeting will be reported in the Martinsville Bulletin on Thursday.