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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Council bans skateboarding uptown

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Local skateboarders no longer will be able to enjoy their sport uptown.

In a unanimous vote, Martinsville City Council on Tuesday adopted on first reading a revised ordinance that bans skateboarding and similar activities in the central business district.

Violators will face a $50 fine. It can be either a civil or criminal penalty, depending on what police think is appropriate under circumstances of individual incidents, according to City Attorney Eric Monday.

The council will consider adopting the ordinance on second reading, which would make if official, during its next regular meeting on Feb. 12. Second readings basically are a formality.

Complaints about skateboarders damaging property at locations uptown, including the refurbished former Henry County courthouse, prompted city officials to revise an ordinance dealing with skateboarding and skating.

Mervyn King, who lives uptown, said he has seen groups of skateboarders using Main and Bridge streets, interfering with traffic flow. He said they are posing a danger to both themselves and motorists.

Also, skateboarders have acted aggressively when people have confronted them, according to King and Jim Woods, manager of the Blue Ridge Regional Library branch on East Church Street uptown.

“This is not the type of behavior you want to see in a town you’re trying to develop,” King said, adding that people should be more civilized.

Woods said library patrons have told him they have almost been run over by skateboarders.

A public skateboard park, with features such as ramps for doing tricks, is at Wilson Park on Church Street Extension, a short distance from uptown.

“There is no excuse ... for anybody to be riding a skateboard uptown when we’ve got a skateboard park,” said city Police Chief Mike Rogers.

Skateboarders are dangerous to people exiting businesses uptown, Rogers said.

The ordinance, enacted many years ago, will continue to ban anyone older than 14 years of age from skating on any public sidewalk in Martinsville.

Monday has said he does not know the reason for the age limit since he did not work for the city when the ordinance was enacted.

Council members did not consider removing the age restriction.

Mayor Kim Adkins said to her understanding, damages seem to have been caused by skateboarders “a little older” than 14.

Under the amendment, people are prohibited from using skateboards, roller skates, rollerblades, scooters or similar devices uptown.

The amendment includes a provision that it would not apply to police or other emergency services workers responding to calls in the line of duty.

Monday has said he thinks emergency crews would not need to respond to calls on skateboards or skates, However, he has heard of instances in other places in which they had to respond to calls in unusual ways, so he put the provision in as a precaution.

Ethan Harr, a skateboarder from Ridgeway who uses the city’s skateboard park, said he thinks the ordinance amendment will not deter those “who are passionate about street skating.”

They will just be on the lookout for police more often, Harr said.

He said he thinks “kinks” in the design of hand rails installed at the former courthouse — and which have since been damaged — would not make them attractive to skateboarders.

Council members wondered whether the ordinance amendment will work. In the end, they agreed it is better than having nothing to try to curb damages thought to have been done by skateboarders.

It is “a reasonable approach,” said Vice Mayor Gene Teague, because if a police officer sees skateboarders causing damage, “he can write a ticket.”

Teague said police likely will not be able to apprehend every skateboarder who causes damage, but then again, neither can they stop every motorist who goes over the speed limit.

“If it doesn’t work, we can always tweak” the ordinance, said Councilman Danny Turner.

In accordance with a state law, signs denoting the ban on skateboarding will be posted uptown.

Other actions taken during Tuesday’s council meeting will be reported in the Martinsville Bulletin on Thursday.


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