Downtown Grand Rapids Skateboard Ban Could Get Second Look

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (June 16, 2014) — Nelson Solivan said he prefers to ride his skateboard to work, but some days has to bike instead. That’s because skateboarding is banned in Grand Rapids’ Downtown Improvement District.

It’s been that way for a year since city commissioners approved the ban. First Ward City Commissioner Walt Gutowski, is willing to revisit the issue.

“We need to be inclusive in this town and celebrate everyone,” he said. “With that comes responsibility and accountability, and as long as we can have that by the users, bring it on.”

Solivan works for Premier, where he sells skateboards to enthusiasts who are on edge about the ordinance. “A lot of kids around here are kind of afraid, even just to ride from maybe the shop to their car or even to the shop on the skate park down there on Market and Godfrey.”

And police are on the lookout for violators.

“Oh yeah, I’ve gotten ticketed myself,” which can be expensive, Solivan said. “It’s not pretty. It comes out to $130, $110, anywhere around there.”

Supporters of the ordinance, such as businesses, wanted to cut down on damage skateboarders do to private property.

Solivan acknowledged the personal responsibility skateboarders need to have, but he said a complete ban is too much. “It’s how you use it. I mean, I feel like this ordinance is kind of putting away with all of it when really you could have a certain degree of what you let happen.”

Gutowski said he’s open to changing the current ban and allowing skateboarders to ride in the street using bicycle lanes.

“For me, the more the merrier,” Gutowski said.

Gutowski said he has already been approached by an advocate who is spearheading a grassroots effort for modification of the ordinance.

Solivan said there’s been buzz about this before, and he hopes it sticks this time.

“You can just let ‘em skate around town or push place to place, like a bike. I don’t see any harm in  that,” Solivan said.

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