How should Farmington police officers handle the city’s ban on sidewalk skateboarding in the central business district, when there’s a successful skateboard shop smack dab in the middle of downtown Farmington?
Over the weekend, Rob Woelkers, owner of PLUSkateboarding, raised concerns on social media after an officer ticketed a customer who was trying out a new board on the sidewalk in front of the shop.
Woelkers said in his 16 years downtown, he has taken his skateboard to work and has never been ticketed:
”You can ride a bike, you can scooter (electric or not), you can ride one of those stupid one wheel deals, but for nothing other than antiquated ideas of skateboarders and ignorance of skateboarding, there’s an ordinance against it.”
According to a report in the February 1, 1998 edition of the Farmington Observer, the new rules were proposed to address concerns from downtown business owners who said boarders block their entrances and customers were complaining. The article also cited damage done by skateboarders at Longacre Elementary School.
The ordinance allows skateboarding in neighborhoods and on private property, with permission. It also prohibits skateboarding on any structure not meant for vehicle or pedestrian traffic, and skateboarding “in a careless or negligent manner.”
Farmington Public Safety Director Frank Demers wasn’t in charge when the rules went into effect, but said officers back then started out with a strong enforcement effort “to create an atmosphere of compliance.”
Demers acknowledged that, more recently, the ordinance has not been heavily enforced. Skateboarders have received warnings and, in some cases, had their boards confiscated until police could have a conversation with their parents about the rules.
But the problems that led to the ordinance 21 years ago, Demers said, seem to be resurfacing. Officers have noticed an uptick in downtown skateboarding activity. And he said Downtown Development Authority Kate Knight recently contacted him after finding damage to new equipment in Riley Park.
“Rather than continue to replace city property,” he said, “what we’re trying to do is recapture that atmosphere of compliance.”
Demers said Monday he hadn’t spoken with Woelkers, but planned to reach out. Woelkers, though, is determined to overturn the ordinance. He plans to contact downtown business owners and encourage people to lobby the city for change.
“It’s time for this outdated, restriction on our rights to end. There is no reason for this healthy way of transportation to be banned. Our police officers have much better things to do than ticket people for skateboarding,” Woelkers wrote.