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A Measure To Increase Access To Skate Parks Is Skating Through The Legislature

Erich Martin

It’s close to 8 p.m. on a Thursday and the Mike Blankenship Skate Park in Tallahassee is full. BMX Bikers get serious air time, college aged skate boarders try out new tricks, while younger skaters watch. Even some inline skaters and rollers skaters swoop through the manmade sinkhole. 

Salomon Cardenas has been skating for years. He says skate parks are an important part of that. 

“Skate parks are where people learn how to skate for the most part and it’s where you can escape just whatever is troubling you at home,” Cardenas says.

Cardenas says skate parks provide a place for community. And he says it’s a place where younger skaters can learn from older skaters – even getting safety tips.

But Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) says the state’s rules are keeping some kids from using skate parks. He says current state law requires cities to collect waivers from the parents of children who use the parks in order for the municipality to remain immune from liability. 

“Which has created an unintended consequence. The unintended consequence is that these children aren’t going to be going there or someplace else like out on the street, or the skate board park doesn’t even permit them to be there in the sense that they won’t build a skateboard park," Simmons says.

The Mike Blankenship Skate park in Tallahassee doesn’t require the use of waivers for its park users. Though Assistant City Attorney Casandra Jackson says it’s something the city has considered. 

"That's something that we are evaluating at this time. Because we do work really hard to make sure that the park is maintained properly, it's not as much of a concern. But I certainly think that if the legislature moves forward to take out that requirement, we're going to see more children participating to take part in the park's usage," Jackson says.

But Seth Levy who says he is a life-long skateboarder, says the rule makes getting to a skate park more difficult for him. He says cities are hesitant to build them because requiring waivers means someone has to be there to collect them, or make sure nobody who hasn’t signed one goes in. He attended a committee meeting on the measure to share his concerns with lawmakers. 

“For me, the reason I’m here today, I drove six and a half hours to come here is because the closest skate board park to me is Fort Pierce. It’s a 90 minute drive. But the problem is they only collect waivers Monday through Friday 9-5,” Levy says.

Levy says that means to take his daughter skating with him, he has to take off work. And he says he has to pay to use the park. It’s the city’s effort to pass on the cost of managing the waiver system, but Levy says it’s prohibitive for a lot of kids. 

If I had to pay every time that I skateboarded, I wouldn’t go. But at the end of the day the streets are free. So, five dollars a day for a kid…some of the parks charge $5, $10 a day,” Levy says.

Levy says the park he uses charges $20 each year. The measure passed out of the full Senate Wednesday. It’s waiting for a hearing in the full House. 

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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