Skateboarders lobby council to create park in Sykesville Mayor agrees to pursue idea, but safety is concern

September 30, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Increased demand for recreational activities has led Sykesville officials to build parks and hiking trails and make plans to restore the town's riverfront. Now, skateboarders want the town of 3,500 to create space for them.

About 20 teen-agers, some accompanied by their parents, lobbied the Town Council on Monday for a skate park.

"Right now, we skate wherever we can find a place, anywhere there is a curve or an open road," said Nick Moulthrop, 14.

Town police say the skaters pose a danger to themselves and to motorists. Sandosky Road, near police headquarters, has become a favorite downhill skating spot. An officer using radar gear clocked one skater traveling 31 mph.

"The big thing is not so much the skating as the jumping and the tricks," said Officer Lee Bradley. "Skating is becoming a big problem."

Westminster made skateboarding on streets, sidewalks and other rights of way illegal and imposed a $25 fine on violators. Other towns have banned skateboarding completely.

Sykesville is more interested in keeping its skaters safe than off its streets. Officials might consider an ordinance requiring helmets and knee and arm pads.

"We don't want to take away things to do for these kids," said Councilman Michael Kasnia. "We want to find somewhere safe for them to skate."

Mayor Jonathan S. Herman promised the crowd the town would pursue the park idea and assigned the preliminary work to Jeannie Nichols, the newest council member. But, he cautioned, the town has several fundamental issues to review first, particularly insurance costs and liability.

"If you build it, I promise it will be extremely popular," said John Banya, a Fannie Dorsey Road resident who often drives his son to a skate park in Bethesda. "Make the site expandable."

Richard Moulthrop, Nick's father, had considered opening a local skate park, but could not find enough financial backing. He was looking for about 30,000 square feet to build the park. He asked if the town would consider a partnership in the enterprise.

"It can be self-sufficient, particularly with a concession stand," he said. "But the profit margin is low."

The meeting Monday was a first step in developing a concept. The town would rely on skaters' expertise to build the park, said Herman, a self-employed contractor.

"We need your help and your parents, so this can be a safe place for you to go," Herman said.

Sykesville might take its cues from Westminster, which soon will build the county's first public skateboard park, with a $31,000 grant from Carroll County's Recreation and Parks Department.

The city plans to transform a concrete pad, adjacent to the East Middle School parking lot, into an area where youths can bounce off half-pipes, quarter-pipes, railings, ramps and other obstacles mimicking an urban landscape.

The city would offset operating costs, estimated at about $17,050 annually, by charging $5 for admission.

Thomas B. Beyard, the city's director of planning and public works, said insurance costs will run about $4,000 a year. Weather permitting, the park will be open 40 weeks a year and could begin operating in the spring.

The site was the second location to be considered. Officials originally had planned to convert two tennis courts at the City Playground into a skateboard park, but switched to the new site after neighbors opposed the plan.

Judith Klein of Sykesville would understand those complaints. While she favors a town skate park, she is well aware of problems it would create in a neighborhood.

"Keep in mind that wherever you put this, it will be loud," Klein told Sykesville officials.

If the Westminster park is successful, Carroll officials might consider building similar skateboard parks in other municipalities, according to Richard J. Soisson, the county's director of recreation, parks and facilities.

Pub Date: 9/30/98

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