Decatur Considers More Specific Ordinance Prohibiting Skateboarding Downtown

UPDATE: The Decatur City Commission is scheduled to take up this ordinance at tonight’s meeting.  See agenda HERE (pdf).

Over on its Open City Hall online feedback forum, the City of Decatur is asking residents how they feel about a new ordinance that explicitly prohibits skateboard and “similar devices” in public areas downtown and “on private property without consent of the property owner.”

The synopsis on Open City Hall explains that the proposed ordinance (pdf) is a result of resident complaints the city continues to receive “about skateboarders who disregard pedestrians and cause unsafe conditions on crowded sidewalks and in crowded public areas”, along with recent damage done to the Celebration Statue on the MARTA plaza.  The post includes multiple pics of damage done to the statue by skateboarders.  (One example above)

In terms of private property damage, the Open City Hall post notes damage done to the marble planter out in front of Leon’s Full Service at the corner of Ponce and Church Street.

In explaining what prompted this new ordinance, City Manager Peggy Merriss reiterates the above points to DM and adds that the Decatur Police Department has asked the city to adopt a more specific ordinance relating to these activities.

68 thoughts on “Decatur Considers More Specific Ordinance Prohibiting Skateboarding Downtown”


  1. Will this include plans to provide any SAFE places for kids to skateboard? Because heavens, we wouldn’t want children outside, getting exercise, and participating in an activity that is not vandalism or crime. Let’s make sure they have no place to go, so they stay home, play video games, eat Doritos, and plot mischief.

    *shakes angry cane at punk kids*

    and stay off my lawn!!!!

    1. There’s $90k worth of skate park at McKoy Park, which I’ve heard goes largely (or wholly) unused.

      1. Not true! It’s packed on the weekends and in the afternoons, and the little kids love running up and down the ramps when there are no skaters or bikers there. In fact, there are often a couple of young people there during the day, and I have to stop myself from demanding to see their hall passes.

        1. You SHOULD ask to see their hall passes! They might be homeschoolees or private school kids or they may be kids who’ve fooled their parents. Seriously. I’ve run into kids I know downtown during the school day and I ask them to go home (maybe they are sick) or to school. They do! I know because sometimes I call to follow up!

          1. One reason I don’t ask is because I’ve gotten to that age where all young people look ridiculously young to me, and I’m afraid if I ask why they aren’t in school, they’ll tell me they are 27-year-old computer programmers who have a flexible work schedule (or something). 😉

      2. You couldn’t be more wrong. I was just there yesterday. There was a least 15 -25 people ranging in age from 6-45. Don’t disparage this park. If anything, it needs to be expanded. Our neighbors to the North, Dunwoody, can boast Brook Run Skate Park. If McKoy was a bigger facility with more variety there would certainly be fewer skateboarders on the street.

        http://brookrun.wordpress.com/resources/the-park/

        1. That fact that we have even a small a skate park is commendable for such a small city. Not OK to damage private property just because McKoy is crowded.

          I know nothing about skateboarding. Does it all have to be concrete or can other materials be used? What about all the open space on the Westchester property ? Could a skateboarding area be put there ?

          1. I didn’t mean to infer that skateboarders should feel free to damage public property because McKoy is sometimes crowded. I agree with you 100%.

            Also, area skaters would be totally in favor of additional skate parks around town. Like it not, skateboarding is a sport. It is exercise. It is worthwhile and I’m glad the city supports it. Destruction of property should be derided, but what if all athletes were treated like skateboarders. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GplUshckhn0

            1. Skatebaorders are asked to not skate in crowded public places, just like 22 guys can’t suit up and play tackle football in the square, or 2 people can’t have a tennis match in the square. Some sports impose more on bystanders than others. They are rightly confined to appropriate places and banned from inappropriate places.

        2. Like fifi said: Could school parking lots be utilized? If they could store the equipment on site, then the locations would already be perfect.

          One step further: Maybe the skateboarders could get a really cool dog tag (or something) for filling out a form in advance that says they’ll follow all rules & assume all risks. It could include vital info that could come in handy in case of injury. (I know this wouldn’t appeal to the adult skateboarders– More Bureaucracy! Just trying to think of a way to open up more spaces for the kids.

    2. Because heavens, we wouldn’t want children outside, getting exercise, and participating in an activity that is not vandalism or crime. Let’s make sure they have no place to go, so they stay home, play video games, eat Doritos, and plot mischief.

      __________________________________

      If I can’t skate on the square and ruin public property in the process, eating corn chips and plotting mischief are really my only options. I’ll drink soda too, because I can’t resist the advertising. All other exercise options — running, football, basketball, biking, soccer, etc — are simply off the table.

  2. Sounds like they just want to make sure the skateboarders know what’s off limits and have some way to enforce it. If they’re causing damage, it IS a kind of vandalism, isn’t it? The city provided a great skate park at McKoy to try to prevent this kind of thing.

  3. My initial reaction was “leave the skateboarders alone”, but if they are damaging private and public property, I am totally on-board with stricter regulations. I can’t believe anyone would have the gall to damage the Celebration Statue. That is WAY over the top and very offensive to me.

    McKoy Skate Park is (and has been) a terrific alternative. Or they could build half-pikes for their own driveways and skate on their own residential streets. Or try biking instead. There are lots of alternatives that don’t involve eating chips on the couch.

    1. “If they are damaging private and public property, I am totally on-board with stricter regulations”

      They are causing damage, in some cases, severe. And the fact that the Celebration Statue has been damaged indicates they have no respect for any property, public or private. The pictures tell part of the story, but plenty more pictures could be taken.

      And, they are a hazard and annoyance to pedestrians who are trying to mind their own business. I had a friend of mine tell me that what should have been a pleasant meal outside Mac McGee’s a few weeks back was totally ruined by the extracurricular activities.

      Maybe some of the skateboarders will show up at City Hall tonight to defend their activities.

    1. I’m GLAD skateboarding is not a crime, but there are many people who think it ought to be. There should be MORE skateparks, and they should be more interesting and more challenging than those presently being built, which are frankly boring. I hope the kids won’t destroy public property in enjoying their sport, but I do understand that skating in the real environment is more enticing than in a repititiously boring “skatepark.”

  4. The skateboarders have also damaged the steps of the Decatur First United Methodist CHURCH and CHAPEL.

    An activity that causes damage – and in some cases severe – should not be called (and is not) exercise.

  5. Sigh. I have watched some avid skateboarders around some of the schools, kids I have known since they were little bitty ones. They are passionnate the way kids playing basketball around a playground hoop can be. Or hula hoopers (back in style) or jumpropers or in-line skaters. But I’ve wondered about their effect on the curbs and stairs and am always worried that I’ll hit one of them accidentally with my car as they dart around with their incredible stunts. I wonder if their parents really know what’s going on. They might not because some of these kids are super straight students and not trouble makers. If the ordinance is publicized in the right way, perhaps awareness will be raised among parents who will then pay more attention to something they may think is an innocent activity. And maybe then they would make sure their kids get over to McKoy Park instead. Some of the kids are young enough that their parents might not allow them to skateboard alone to McKoy. The schools could help publicize “safe skateboarding” just like they promote “safe routes to school”. Most, but not all, of the skateboarders wear helmets. I wonder if a few other smaller skateboard zones could be scattered around town since McKoy isn’t the neighborhood park for all of the avid skateboarders.

    So glad that balance on a narrow board does not run in our family!

    1. As someone who has friends and exes who are avid skaters- and pretty damn old to boot, half the point of being on a board is not being safe.

  6. They can be as passionate as they want to be, but they don’t have to ruin public or private property in the process.

    I can fully appreciate the social interaction that comes with skateboarding. I can’t appreciate the damage that comes with it. It should not be tolerated.

  7. Even though I was recently clotheslined (really) by one of these skateboarders in the parking garage at the Wachovia building, I am against yet another ordinance. There is usually a group of these kids skating in the parking garage around 6:00 PM each day when I leave the office, and they are polite & generally speaking careful (except for that one encounter). I agree they shoud not damage property, but another ordinance? There are so many restrictions already… let kids be kids. But, that said, when they cross the line into property damage let them experience the full set of consequences. These particular kids were pretty well-behaved.

  8. Getting handle on the property destruction is the main issue. But the proposed ordinance addresses everything on wheels other than bicycles and motorized vehicles. That would include little kids on scooters or even tricycles in downtown. Do we give tickets to parents who go to Sweet Melissa’s with their kids on scooters?

  9. Vandalism is a crime, but skateboarding is not. I was sitting at the Marlay the other night and a few kids went by on long boards. They seemed to be having a good time, and could not have damaged any property with these boards if they wanted to. If we were to pass this ordinance they would not be allowed to be there. I agree that if someone is found grinding on steps or a rail causing damage they should receive a fine or some discipline, but to outlaw a perfectly healthy mode of transportation to deter a few bad apples seems a bit Orwellian.

  10. Skate rats!

    I have always believed that Jimmy Carter missed an important opportunity to address the energy crisis by not encouraging more skateboarding.

    This small group of unsupervised thirteen year olds is indifferent to property damage. They appear in every neighborhood. While not cool, ruining it for everyone by enacting an anti-ordinance is lame.

    1. Suggest another way to control the situation. They have already demonstrated their disregard for safety and property and since they are “unsupervised”, they require supervision. The City isn’t ruining it for everyone, the offenders are.

  11. Absolute yes! Skateboarding is not a crime, but they seem to disregard private property and care nothing of the damage done to walls, walks, rails and other property. Get skateboarders off streets, sidewalks and parking lots where damage to property and injury to people can occur.

  12. No more specific/restrictive ordinances please. If someone has the balance and coordination to maneuver around on a rolling board, let them. Walking around town, I never see more than a few skaters here or there, and most pick up their ‘stick’ in crowds, joining the ranks of other pedestrians.

    It’s not like “The Wild One” where our small town streets have been thrown into turmoil. It seems to me that a handful of people need to be reminded that damaging property, public or private, is wrong and won’t be tolerated.

    In the age of big brother, where every almost person has a camera or video recorder no further away than their cell – not to mention public surveillance cameras, habitual offenders don’t really have a chance.

    From what I know of human nature, nobody wants to be sold for a cigarette in jail by someone else who probably doesn’t even smoke.

  13. Nothing says “Welcome to Codgerville” like a skateboard ordinance.

    The boarders practicing grinds on the marblework do it in broad daylight in front of the busiest spots in the city. I have never seen an attempt to enforce the existing laws against destroying property so exactly what is the point of creating another law that will go unenforced?

      1. From tonight’s Meeting:

        The ordinance was needed because skateboards aren’t even listed on the books.

        A violation will now be a misdemeanor, rather than the felony charge(s) of criminal trespass & criminal damage to property that would otherwise apply.

        The Police Dept worked closely with Dan Magee to ensure that all Safe Routes were protected (& some paths to DHS & the Rec Center.)

        The emphasis was on protecting heavily used pedestrian corridors (& valuable community assets.)

        1. Reiterating Deanne’s report from last night’s meeting, here’s the City Manager’s response to my question of why a stronger ordinance was needed…

          The concern was that the City’s ordinance was not specific enough. If the Police Department uses the City ordinance violation, it can be heard in Municipal Court as a misdemeanor. AS I understand it, using criminal trespass or damage to property violations could lead to felony charges.

        2. Wait. That would seems to suggest the action last night served to partially *decriminalize* the behavior rather than additionally penalize it. Am I reading this right?

          1. That’s correct. All of the City Folks- the Police Dept included- wanted to make sure that misbehaving folks aren’t overcharged.

            The Board discussed if it was absolutely necessary to ban all wheeled devices – primarily for the tykes. It was reluctantly agreed that it would still be a problem in heavy pedestrian areas. Not said (but definitely thought by me!) is that you’d be opening up that old familiar problem of the parents who let their little kids run wild.

            I sure wish everybody could have heard the presentation/discussion. The City gave this very careful consideration. They really do want folks to be able to enjoy themselves. It’s just important to protect everybody’s enjoyment.

            (* Also, all the other wheeled devices were already on the books. )

    1. Destroying property would be hard to enforce with a skateboarder, since:
      a) the destruction is gradual and not due a single incident
      b) an officer would have to actually see the skateboarder in action, since the offender could claim any damage was due to another time and another cause.
      And, presenting a safety hazard to pedestrians has nothing to do with property destruction, so that law would have no effect on reckless riding.

      1. I beg to differ. GSC 6.11.39 (Disorderly conduct) applies to property as well as safety. The officer only has to witness tumultous behavior that may make a person fear for their safety or property. This provides a lot of discretion for the officer and covers any dangerous activity.

        Creating an ordinance specifically towards skateboarding in public is too narrow and criminalizes a popular youth activity that is only abused by a few.

    2. To Ridgelandistan — I had to laugh at your reference to “Codgerville.” Please don’t turn Decatur into another Codgerville by passing too-restrictive ordinances for skateboarders!

  14. I am amazed that the leeway some of you are giving the skateboarders.

    My hobbies don’t destroy property. Do yours?

    1. The “hobby” of skateboarding does not destroy property.
      Destroying property is already an enforcable crime.
      Should we outlaw driving because some people street race?

    1. Re “City Manager Peggy Merriss reiterates the above points to DM and adds that the Decatur Police Department has asked the city to adopt a more specific ordinance relating to these activities.”

  15. That’s an absurd comparison, don’t you think?

    Regardless of whether or not an “ordinance” is put into place, skateboarders who ride their “modes of transportation” around the square should be closely monitored by citizens and law enforcement alike. Not all of them are hellraisers, but those that are giving the whole lot a bad name.

    The property destruction and lack of respect for others has got to stop. Most skateboarders I encounter (and some people on this board) think they are entitled to do whatever they want, wherever they want.

  16. Not in favor of a more restrictive ordinance– as others have said, there are already plenty of existing ordinances that just need to be enforced. Plus, if all else fails, I find tripping rude skateboarders does wonders. Nothing like a skint arse to manner ’em right up! Broken bones are even better.

    (For the humour-impaired: the last two sentences were A JOKE, thankya.)

  17. Let the skater be…
    Just ask them to stop damaging property…
    And McKoy is used ALL the time!

    1. I don’t think it is as simple as saying skate but don’t damage anything.

      The damage shown in the photo above looks as if it happened over a long period of time. Many skateboard rides scraping away at the stone/cement. Where is the line between just skating and property damage …the 1st ride across the stone/cement or the 501st… ? I can see why the police want some more detailed guidelines.

      I don’t know much about skateboarding . Can the rider , especially a young rider, always be sure he/she won’t be grinding a particular step or curb ? Do some try to grind on purpose ? Can you tell by watching who is purposely destructive ?

      I don’t get how police can decide exactly who causes this type of damage. Not sure about the location of the spot pictures above but I can’t see any answer there other than to outlaw all skateboarding in that place.

      1. I don’t know much about skateboarding . Can the rider , especially a young rider, always be sure he/she won’t be grinding a particular step or curb ? Do some try to grind on purpose ? Can you tell by watching who is purposely destructive ?

        _____________________________

        A ‘grind” is a skateboard maneuver, in which the rider grinds on their axle(s) across a curb or other smooth, hard surface. SImilarly, a “railslide” is a maneuver in which the rider slides across a bench or other smooth, hard surface using the underside of their skateboard.

        Both of these tricks can cause damage. Damage is not the intent, but it is a byproduct. The vast majority of skateboarders are not purposefully destructive. If they destroy a curb, they can no longer use that curb for skateboarding.

        Any slick, smooth surface (such as a painted curb, a handrail or a smooth concrete bench) is going to attract skateboarders. Once a surface is damaged, it’d probably be a good idea to repair it in a way that discourages skateboarding. Give these things rough surfaces and skateboarders will have little interest in them.

  18. Skateboarding definitely shouldn’t be outlawed–that’s ridiculous–but there need to be restrictions, and maybe an ordinance just gives them a way to enforce that. I know Decatur Methodist has had a lot of trouble with this, but what can they do?

    They should take that big empty DeVry parking lot they just bought and turn it into another skate park!

  19. What is becoming of this city? Don’t we have bigger fish to fry rather than arresting any skateboarder, rollerskater, or kid in a wagon around the Square?

    This was fast-tracked into a new ordinance, which our outdated building and zoning codes langish until further study by another committee, strategic plan, etc., because no one wants to make any difficult decisions.

  20. I wasn’t disparaging the skate park when I mentioned it near the beginning of this thread. I meant to express dismay and exasperation because the City and the community have invested significantly in creating a dedicated place for skateboarding, and yet we still confront willful property damage downtown. (I say the community invested because the original construction included a big volunteer effort.)

    Enacting a new ordinance should be the last resort in the face of any ongoing problem, and in this instance I believe it is. This is not a new problem. I remember the frustration, years ago, when the brand-new hardscape features in Harmony Park began sustaining skateboard damage almost before the cement had cured. And that’s just a few short blocks away from McKoy Park! I personally scolded some skateboarders off the wall there once, only to see more appear later the same day. Amid all the protests, I’m not hearing suggestions about how else we can protect the property that is being damaged.

    And to Ridgelandistan in particular: banning skateboards downtown doesn’t say “Welcome to Codgerville,” it says “welcome to a community where we insist on mutual courtesy and respect, even from our cosseted young people.”

  21. Forgot to say, I’m very glad to hear the skate park at McKoy isn’t going unused. If it’s heavily used and crowded, then building more such facilities is a good idea. But the skaters will have to take a number along with everybody else.

  22. I think it is unfortunate that roller skaters are lumped into this ordinance. Inline skating is not just a recreation but a form of transportation, like biking. Though fewer people travel that way, I have yet to see an inline skater do anything but travel through town, sometimes on the PATH, sometimes on roads. They follow the same rules as bikers, I thought, so I am unclear as to why they are addressed in this ordinance.

  23. I am an avid skateboarder…. 14 to 30 years old now and I haven’t stopped pushing. When the weather is nice, I take my board into work by skating then riding marta. I skate mckoy whenever I can… injuries and old age means I don’t get to skate nearly as much. Outlawing skateboarding is ridiculous. Vandalizing is already against the law…. even if skateboard specific laws aren’t on the books. Do we need more laws, or more common sense from the police, and the parents of the kids out skating everywhere.

    Skateboarding is amazing exercise and can be a life long positive experience. It should be encouraged in Decatur, not prohibited.

  24. I thought Decatur was smarter than one size fits all solutions. What is happening to us as a community?

    If Garrett had problems with the ordinance (as stated in the DNO article) then why didn’t shr fight to amend the language or vote against the law?

    1. As I read the article, it didn’t state that Garrett “had problems with the ordinance.” It reported that, along with other commissioners, she “wondered aloud” why it was written to include scooters and skates. Presumably the question was answered.

  25. So, how did the vote come out on this?

    BTW, I wonder if any of those evil skateboarders (and particularly those kids on Razors) have tree houses?

    AAah! Horrors! What is the world coming to?

    1. All voted FOR it.

      ( I commented on last night’s meeting about midway through the comments stack. Why midway? I haven’t a clue! It made sense at the time!)

      So, are you proposing teeny tiny tree house /skate parks?

  26. Too many comments to read, so sorry if this is repetitive. But instead of ordinances, which are difficult to enforce, why not physically protect those surfaces that we don’t want messed up by the skateboarders? Like this:

    http://architectures.danlockton.co.uk/2006/04/12/making-a-sleek-piece-from-a-pigs-ear/

    Not sure if I’ve seen these in Atlanta, but I have noticed them in other cities and they tend to look pretty innocuous in person. Much better than scraped up marble. And I’m sure they also send a gentle message to the skateboarders, the majority of whom are probably more thoughtless than malicious. At least, I’d like to think that’s the case.

    1. Deterrent measures would be a good idea if the skateboarders were like deer or pigeons or some other creature that can’t be counted on to engage in reasoned self-restraint. But seems to me any human who is old enough to be out around town without his/her parents is old enough to exercise respect and courtesy for their community, and not be “more thoughtless than malicious.” Skateboarders know perfectly well that their activities can damage property. Why do so many favor letting them off the hook for moderating their own behavior? I’m strongly opposed to spending precious public funds on deterrent measures in lieu of setting and enforcing a minimum standard of social behavior.

      1. Unfortunately, enforcing social behavior to the degree it would be required in this case is not within the realm of possibility.

        And even if it were, it would be much more expensive than purchasing and installing skate stoppers like the ones in the link.

        1. Unfortunately, enforcing social behavior to the degree it would be required in this case is not within the realm of possibility.
          _____

          The closest we can come is an ordinance regulating the offending behavior. If skateboarders don’t consider it against the laws of common courtesy and respect to engage in pastimes that damage public property, then we have to make it against municipal law. Otherwise, we’re saying Decatur is a place where it’s okay to do whatever you want to, regardless of the impact on everybody else. That’s not the kind of community we like to think we live in.

    2. Are most of the skateboarders local? Or are they coming from all over Metro Atlanta for Decatur’s skateable landscape? The reason that I ask is that, if mostly local kids are involved, I think an inexpensive, one-time, short, coordinated campaign by the City will take care of the problem. E.g. email blasts from the schools, the City, the churches, and the neighborhoods, some website coverage, press releases, nothing expensive at all. Once the level of awareness and shame is raised among local families, and a few offenders are apprehended to put the fear of God into other offenders and their parents, I suspect that the offenses will go way down. However, if a lot of the offenders are over age 18 and from elsewhere, I think a more global effort will be needed, both physical prevention and aggressive law enforcement.

  27. Why don’t we ban those double wide strollers all of you rapidly breeding yuppie invaders walk down the sidewalks with while we’re at it? I can’t get down the sidewalks sometimes due to those things. It’s a public safety issue, I tell you!

    1. The strollers may be a little hard on the curb at crossings but even sleep-deprived, frustrated mothers of triplets don’t usually do much damage to statues and staircase walls and bannisters. Now wheelchairs and walkers……those are real hazards! 🙂

  28. Are a few abusers causing problems for the innocent masses of skateboarders?
    Skateboarding used to be when a young dude rode a board on wheels and tried not to fall off.
    Now “skateboarding” is trick riding. And it takes a lot of varied terrain to support trick riding.
    If I were to offer my 2c, I’d say there are more than just a few abusers. I’d say most skateboarders are causing the damage due to the present demands of the sport itself and the egos of the participants.

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