Town limits use of skates; Council approves ordinance creating no-skating zones; Signs on Main Street; Merchants, elderly complained skaters cause disruptions; Mount Airy


The town that built itself a $100,000 skateboard park has enacted a law to keep most skaters there.

Mount Airy has created several no-skate zones effective immediately.

The town opened a $100,000 skateboard park last month in Watkins Park and has drawn a steady crowd of enthusiasts since, most of them 12 to 16 years old. The 14,000-square-foot recreational area features rails, ledges, two miniramps, five quarter-pipes and two half-pipes, one of which is 6 feet high and 40 feet wide.

Still, some skaters continue to glide across senior citizens' porch steps and use the town's Main Street on the way to the park off Route 27. They are disrupting businesses and frightening senior citizens, officials said.

The Town Council unanimously enacted an ordinance Monday and will immediately post "No Rollerblades or Skateboards" signs on Main Street in the downtown business area and along Ridge Avenue at the town library, senior center and Wildwood Park, a senior housing complex. The ordinance will not prevent skating in neighborhoods.

Violators will be subject to a $25 fine for the first municipal infraction. Each subsequent offense will result in a $50 fine.

"We hope this will take care of things," Mayor Gerald Johnson said. "But, there is usually always something else. Unless we get requests that others want their areas closed, this ordinance should do."

The ordinance leaves other areas in town the option of banning skating, provided they make an official request to Town Hall.

The law says the council is "empowered to pass resolutions from time to time in its discretion designating portions of sidewalks, streets and rights-of-way" as no-skating zones. Such areas would have to be marked with signs at the beginning and end of each block or at intervals of not less than 500 feet, the ordinance says.

The council considered a much broader measure last month, one that would have banned all skating outside the park, imposed the fine and confiscated skateboards.

"If we adopt this ordinance, skating will be off everywhere," said Council President R. Delaine Hobbs, on first reading the proposal. "This makes it all illegal outside the park. I think we are taking away too many rights."

He pushed for a rewrite "that is not so all-encompassing."

"This has to be done to allow skating in ways that residents want," Hobbs said.

Councilwoman Laurie V. Hager called the original proposal broad and sweeping.

"It would be a powder keg for kids who want to skate in front of their houses," she said.

Councilman William E. Wagner noted safety issues and asked that skating be prohibited on main roads throughout the town, an idea also rejected as too broad.

Before the skate park opened, merchants and elderly residents had been the most frequent complainers about disruptive skaters, the mayor said.

"Prior to the park, the troopers and I were frequently stopping skaters on the streets," Johnson said last month. "Skating has been a problem in town, particularly for businesses and for seniors. There was just no place. Now that we have a place, we have to have an ordinance."

The council opted to keep language on fines in the revised ordinance, but decided against confiscating equipment.

"What would we do with a roomful of skateboards?" asked the mayor.

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