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Skateboarders unfairly labeled
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Above, skateboarder Ethan Harr stands with his skateboard. Harr said that it is not fair to limit the ability of all skateboarders to skate somewhere just because a few people have caused damage. He said that overall, skateboarders he knows try to be respectful of people and their property.

Monday, February 4, 2013

For Ethan Harr, skateboarding is more than just a pastime; it is a way of life.

“Skateboarding is more than just a sport; it’s an art form,” said Harr. “An art form is an output of expression. Essentially, skateboarding is self-expression.”

According to previous Bulletin reports, Harr, 21, has attended and spoken at multiple Martinsville City Council meetings where a ban on skateboarding uptown for those over the age of 14 was discussed. The ban likely will be formalized at the Feb. 12 city council meeting.

The ban was proposed due to property damage caused by skateboarders in uptown Martinsville, particularly at the former Henry County courthouse. The damage there since has been repaired.

“Property damage is a problem,” Harr said, “But I don’t think that skaters are necessarily the ones guilty of all of that property damage.”

According to Harr, who is a student at Patrick Henry Community College, the main problem with the ban is that it punishes all skateboarders while only a few actually are causing damage.

“It’s not the skateboarding that’s the problem,” he said. “It’s the people that are the problem. Those people (who are responsible for damage) probably haven’t been taught how to be polite and show etiquette to pedestrians ... or to be courteous to people’s property.

“There are skaters who don’t go out and just destroy people’s property,” Harr added. “There are skaters that are polite when they encounter people who aren’t always polite initially to them.”

As a skateboarder, Harr has experienced his fair share of negative reactions, including strangers “screaming obscenities” at him, he said.

“It’s the skater’s responsibility to be respectful to other people, but it’s (also) everyone’s responsibility to be respectful of other people,” he said.

“Just because you see someone skating down the sidewalk ... wait for a second, and see how they’re acting. If they’re being disruptive to other people and destroying property, yeah, you should kick them out. But if they’re not bothering anybody, is it any different from someone just walking through?”

Another concern with the ban on skateboarding uptown, Harr said, is that skateboarders often stop at local businesses while they are out skating. If they are banned, the businesses will lose those customers.

At previous city council meetings, the question has been raised: why do skateboarders insist on skating uptown when there is a skateboard park at Wilson Park on Church Street Extension?

According to a previous Bulletin report, one problem is that the skateboard park retains water following a rainfall. Harr agrees that this is an issue, but it is not the only issue, he said.

While he goes to the skate park nearly every day, he said that ultimately, most skaters want an occasional change of scenery.

“It’s kind of like NASCAR,” Harr said. “They don’t just race one track.”

In his experience, Harr said, the skateboarding community is about fellowship and positive influence, not vandalism.

“It’s a brotherhood,” he said. “Personally, I’m a Christian. I put God first ... but not everybody in skateboarding is religious. I’ve got friends that skate that are athiests... But we all are still brothers, and we all take care of each other, we feed each other, we take each other skating. Skaters will be homeless and we’ll let them live with us.”

Harr said that when he started skateboarding, he had to be taught by the more experienced skateboarders the proper etiquette of the sport.

“(They would say) ‘Don’t do that, you’re going to give all of us a bad name. This person gave us permission to skate on their property, and because of you being destructive towards their property, you’re going to make it so they don’t let us come back.’”

Harr hopes that he can be a similar positive influence on the younger generation of skateboarders.

“I take it upon myself to set a good example for all the skaters around here,” Harr said. “I want to help guide them, how to be good people, how to be respectful skating, so that future generations can enjoy skating uptown.

“Because clearly what we have going on, one group of people ... have ruined it for everybody. It’s tough for those people who just want to enjoy skateboarding. They don’t want to damage property, they just want to enjoy skating,” he said.

To this end, Harr is planning to open a skate shop in Martinsville, which he hopes to model after the skate shops he visited while living in Richmond. According to Harr, several shops there do fundraising and charitable work, including sending skateboarding equipment to underprivileged children in developing nations.

“That’s the thing about the skateboarding communities that I’ve learned,” Harr said, “is that everyone comes together to do something productive and positive, not just for themselves, but for future generations as well.”

Harr is creating a business plan for his skate shop and is trying to gauge community interest. To discuss the skate shop with Harr, contact him at


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