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Boardwalk skateboarding still on track for approval next week

If you are in Ocean City this week, you may notice a couple of changes as you drive down Coastal Highway. The speed limit, normally 40 mph through North Ocean City, has been reduced to 30 mph, and Downtown, the speed limit has also been reduced. This is due to the expected, unauthorized H2Oi Pop-Up Rally.  It is reasonable to expect heavier than usual traffic, noise and strict enforcement of vehicle laws during the week and weekend.

ZACK HOOPES ¦ Staff Writer

(Sept. 28, 2012) City Council appears set to approve Boardwalk skateboarding at next week’s meeting, although trepidation still remained at this week’s work session regarding the line between skating for transportation and skating for show.

“If I was a police officer, for instance, how would I figure out if someone’s transporting or recreating?” posed Council President Jim Hall.

“I would think it would be pretty easy … if he’s going in a straight line and not doing tricks,” replied Councilman Doug Cymek.

Cymek had suggested last week that skateboarding be allowed on the Boardwalk during the times when bicycles are already permitted as a way to extend the olive branch to local skaters in anticipation of a more detailed review of the city’s skateboard policy later in the year.

“I think this is something we could do immediately to send a good message that we’re trying to work with the citizens,” Cymek said last week.

The council has already indicated that it would be receptive to relaxing the city’s skateboard ban, which prohibits use in any public street or thoroughfare other than the city’s Ocean Bowl Skate Park on St. Louis Avenue between Third and Fourth streets.

In July, the council voted to widen the city’s antiquated definition of “boogie boards” to allow a number of new varieties of soft-top body boards to be used on the city’s beaches.

The same, it was said, could be done with skateboards, since skateboard technology and technique has changed greatly since the city’s code was written in the 1970s. Although skateboards come in a variety of shapes and sizes, they can be roughly divided into short or “street” boards, and longboards.

Short boards are the more typical skateboard, with a louvered deck and angled ends designed to enable aerial tricks and stunts. Longboards are thin, flat, and have a longer wheelbase, designed for better maneuverability and retention of momentum when cruising down streets and sidewalks.

The consensus seemed to be that longboards should be given more leniency for street use, since they pose less of a threat for destruction of property and general nuisance by boarders attempting tricks on curbs and railings.

Councilman Brent Ashley has been the only opponent of the change, citing concerns about damage that scofflaw skateboarders already do to public structures downtown. If the law were to be relaxed, he suggested that the city put some of its budget surplus into a fund to repair damage caused by skaters.

“Why start out with a negative?” Councilwoman Mary Knight retorted. “Let’s have time to evaluate this, but don’t start out saying that they’re going to cause more damage.”

“It’s not a negative, it’s a reality check,” Councilwoman Margaret Pillas said. “The taxpayers are going to have to pay for it somehow … we have expenses with everything we do. There’s no problem with looking at it and asking if we have room in our budget.”

Councilman Joe Hall said that expenses should be a moot point as long as there’s enough manpower for enforcement.

“They’re still responsible for paying for the damage if they’re caught,” he said.

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