Enfield Considers First Skateboard Law
By Erin Hanrahan
Valley News Staff Writer
Enfield -- Close calls between motorists and skateboarders this summer have prompted town officials to reconsider the sport's place in the community. They've drafted the town’s first skateboard ordinance and discussed construction of a skateboard park.
Enfield Selectwoman Rebecca Stewart called the park a long-range project, still in the conceptual stage, but said a vote on the ordinance could come on Monday at the Selectboard's next regular meeting.
“The ordinance really needs to happen soon, so we can avoid any tragic accidents,” said Stewart, who said she has personally “experienced young people coming down the road and not yielding to traffic.”
While the wording on the new law has not been finalized, Enfield Police Chief Richard Crate said it will likely prohibit riding skateboards on a narrow stretch of Route 4A north of the Shaker Bridge, as well as on several hills in town, including Shaker Hill Road, Lockehaven Road and Jones Hill Road. It might also consign skateboarders to the sidewalk in the village area around Main Street. Crate said he has received complaints of skateboarders riding after dark and not yielding to vehicle traffic.
Other towns in the Upper Valley, including Lebanon and Hanover, have passed skateboarding regulations, but the proposed ordinance would be a first for Enfield, which Crate says has an increasing number of skateboarders. “We've seen a lot more skateboarders lately,” Crate said. “We want to make sure the kids are safe.”
On Main Street, where skateboarders occasionally congregate on hot summer days, business owner Scott Ibey cautioned against restricting skateboards from roads without giving kids another place to go. Ibey, 31, who owns Dragon's Gate Tattoo Studio, grew up skateboarding in California, and said he still occasionally rides his board down the road to the post office at lunchtime. He said riding on the sidewalk is impractical, because it is made of bricks, which catch on skateboard wheels.
“I've never seen the kids around here destroying anything,” Ibey said. He conceded that they might pose a “slight traffic hazard,” but noted that Main Street is one of only a few smooth and flat places to ride in town. “There's no other flat area in town but downtown,” he said.
Crate said he was sympathetic to skateboarders who want to use the roadways, noting, “Far too often we get in the opinion that the roads are for automobiles. They're not. They're for horses, walkers, and yes, skateboards.” But he also cited what he called “an issue of disrespect” on behalf of some skateboarders.
“They're right in the middle of the road,” he said.
He called the ordinance a good compromise between the current lawlessness and an outright ban on skateboarding, which, he said, was also discussed.
Stewart said the town hopes to build a destination park for skateboarders, and Town Manager Steve Schneider has looked at the skate parks in Lebanon and Canaan as possible models. Stewart said the Selectboard has discussed locating the park at Shaker Recreation Park on Route 4A, though she added that other suggestions are welcome.
“We're kind of in the beginning stages of that,” she said.
At Huse Memorial Park yesterday, skateboarder Samuel Calfy, 16, who was tooling around on the concrete floor of a small picnic pavilion, said he would be thrilled if the town built a skateboard park. “All the skaters who skate here would want to skate on a skate park,” he said. “Just grabbing random objects like a trash can and ollieing them, we get pretty bored.” (An “Ollie” is a trick in which a skateboarder pops up in the air with the skateboard.)
Calfy said he goes to Lebanon's skateboard park on Glen Road whenever he can get a ride, “but I can't walk there.” By comparison, he said, he knows plenty of skateboarders from town who take advantage of skateboarding features at Shaker Recreation Park.
“I'd learn to skate if we had a park,” said Chelsea Wheeler, 15, who was sitting in the pavilion with Calfy and friend Brianna Turner, 17, yesterday.
Lebanon Assistant Director of Recreation Kevin Talcott said that finding a location was the toughest part of building the Lebanon park. When the city allocated money for a series of ramps and skateboarding features, shortly after passing its own skateboarding ordinance four years ago, Talcott said, “The old saying ‘Not in my backyard' was going around.”
Talcott said residents feared the legal responsibility of a town-run skate park, but Schneider said, in Enfield, the liability would be no greater than that of the town beach on Lake Mascoma. Once a location is settled, Talcott said, the town will have to decide whether the features at the park will be made of expensive, but durable, concrete or the less expensive wood. Schneider said he would seek donated materials from skateboard companies to help defray the costs of the project, which Talcott said would vary widely depending on the size and scope of the park.
Stewart said Enfield has yet to work out funding and legal concerns for the park, but Crate said those obstacles would be easier to tackle than any potential accident between skateboarders and cars. “Having a kid on the road instead, in traffic, is creating another situation,” he said.
Crate said the proposed skateboarding ordinance would impose “realistic consequences” for skaters who ride in roads, such as confiscating skateboards, rather than issuing tickets.
Calfy said he knows some teenagers who have already had their skateboards taken away temporarily, or received citations, for dangerous riding. “I'm careful,” he said. “I grab my board when a car passes by.”