If Skateboards Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Skateboards

What's a kid to do when his most passionate pursuit gets no respect?

Garcia, Falca, and the six others who remained at the jail also were irate -- at the fact that they could be held in the slammer overnight for skateboarding on a rooftop. They appeared before a judge early the next morning and were freed with time served as their punishment. To them the incident symbolized the pinched state of affairs in the Magic City for practitioners of their art. And it strengthened their resolve to lobby the City of Miami to spring for a skate park so that they and other enthusiasts might kickflip, nosegrind, and bluntslide in peace.

Since the Rooftops incident, Garcia has tried to carve a civil course. Two weeks ago, several months after first mailing his proposal to the Miami city manager's office, he finally received a telephone call from Assistant City Manager Frank Rollason, who told Garcia the Department of Parks and Recreation would look into it. Standing near the spot where he and his cohorts waited in handcuffs for three hours, Garcia offers his vision. “It's going to have waves of cement, a nice wall, some stairs, handrails, things we utilize,” he proclaims. “We want to re-create a city atmosphere. Because we're urban dwellers.” In his proposal to the city, he asks for “a small parking lot, preferably with a canopy, ample parking for the parents, a couple of picnic tables, garbage cans, and a water fountain or beverage machine.” Garcia adds he would be willing to raise some of the money to build the concrete pools and street elements (handrails, stairs, benches) that are standard features in skate parks in Quito, Marseilles, Jacksonville, and other civilized cities of the world. “In Philadelphia the kids got together and paved out their own thing, and they made their own skate park. The city came in a year later and realized what they had going on and supported it.” One possible Miami location he likes is beneath the I-395 overpass in Overtown, just south of the site of the future Performing Arts Center. “We want to create a haven for parents who work downtown all day, who have kids who want to bicycle and Rollerblade and skateboard,” he explains.

Garcia is waiting to hear from Miami's parks and recreation department but is skeptical. “They'll say it's the whole insurance thing. If we get hurt, they'll say we'll hold them liable,” he predicts.

Kirk Nielsen
Kickflippers on the roof: Garcia and Falca steal a look at Biscayne Bay during a recent skateboarding session atop Miami Marine Stadium
Kirk Nielsen
Kickflippers on the roof: Garcia and Falca steal a look at Biscayne Bay during a recent skateboarding session atop Miami Marine Stadium

“The biggest thing that comes to mind when you talk about skateboarding in a public park is liability,” declares Al Ruder, director of Miami's parks and recreation department. “When it comes to skateboarding, liability is an issue because people can get hurt. But people can get hurt doing almost anything, so I'm sure there are ways to address it.” Ruder, who has worked in the parks department for twelve years, says he was unaware there was a demand for a skateboarding facility, but he is willing to discuss anyone's proposal. “We would have to look at what infrastructure needs to be done to accommodate this, and who's going to pay for it,” he adds. About a million dollars are left from the $26 million the city received in 1996 from a countywide safe-parks fund.

Ruder mentions there is a precedent for resolving the liability problem. A city-backed youth roller-hockey league in Coconut Grove found a group to cover the insurance for that rough-and-tumble sport: the City of Miami's Police Athletic Association. Despite his busts Garcia likes the idea. “Killer!” he says.

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