Public skating park planned $31,000 grant earmarked to build skateboarding area; Site would provide haven; Participants are banned from streets and sidewalks


If you get your thrills bouncing, grinding and performing other airborne skateboarding antics off benches and curbing, Westminster may soon have a park for you to call home.

With a $31,000 grant from Carroll County's Recreation and Parks Department, the city plans to build the county's first public skateboard park, offering half pipes, quarter pipes, railings, ramps and other obstacles mimicking the urban landscape.

But for the city's skateboarders, the park would offer much more.

Skateboarders, often viewed with scorn by merchants and police for speeding down sidewalks in the business district, would have a place to pursue their sport without interruption.

Skateboarding in streets, sidewalks and other rights of way in Westminster is illegal. Violators are subject to a $25 fine.

The park would be a haven, county officials said.

"It's much easier to enforce a law if we tell them there are areas where they can skate, and not just tell them where they can't skate," said Richard J. Soisson, the county's director of recreation and parks.

Under the proposal before the Westminster Common Council, two tennis courts in the city playground, behind the Westminster Family Center on Longwell Avenue, would be converted into an obstacle course for skateboarders and in-line skaters.

The county grant would pay for the park.

The council plans to vote on the location of the park this month, said Councilman Gregory Pecoraro, liaison to the recreation department. He said the council also needs to finalize insurance costs.

If approved, the park could open in the fall.

The city would pay operating costs. Yesterday, the council approved the skateboard park's $17,050 operating budget, which covers a staff member to oversee the park and projected insurance costs. The city will offset these expenses by charging $5 for admission.

"We have a lot of recreation in our city. This is what has been missing," Pecoraro said.

Not everyone is convinced that the park will fill the void.

Westminster Police Chief Sam R. Leppo said the park would not eliminate skating in the downtown business district.

"When a skateboarder goes to the park, he's not going to carry his board. He's going to ride it," he said.

Leppo, however, said he did not view the skateboarders as a major problem.

Jeremy Stoner, 23, manager of M--Pire Snowboards & Skateboards in Westminster, said a park will not satisfy skateboarders' appetite for adventure on the street.

"You can get into a rut doing the same course," said Stoner, whose store is lined with boards, T-shirts, videos and baseball caps. One cap read: "Skateboarding is not a crime."

Stoner and several business partners ran an indoor skateboarding park in Finksburg called Ramp Builders Inc. The park closed in March, but should reopen at a new site next month in Westminster, Stoner said.

Ronald J. Schroers, supervisor of recreation and activities for Westminster, said the competition would not hurt the park project. The demand is too great, he said.

"I see a lot of kids right now who are not allowed on any sidewalks or streets. The parents see a need for it. The merchants see a need for it. The library sees a need for it," Schroers said.

Schroers said the park will offer police a place to send skateboarders when they are caught skating illegally, as they sometimes are behind the Westminster branch library on Main Street.

A steep hill and a retaining wall in the library's parking lot draws skateboarders after school, said Lois Leasure, the library's manager.

"It really is unsafe with all the traffic," Leasure said, adding that the park should replace the parking lot as a skateboarding destination.

"I think it will be very popular," she said.

Pub Date: 5/12/98

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