It's all about skateboarding in this week's Gazette. While Germantown's celebrating the opening of a new skate spot right in their Town Center (despite attempts to go all Giuliani on the little delinquents), one beleaguered office-worker in Bethesda wants one to make her lunch breaks on Bethesda Row more civil.
Meanwhile, Wheaton's formerly untouchable downtown seems to have finally arrived. Local shopkeepers are complaining that the new walkway on Georgia Avenue (where Barry's Magic Shop used to be) has already been "taken over" by skater kids just two weeks after it opened.
And this is a problem because . . .? These kids may not be Ray Picture Framing's target consumers, but I certainly doubt they or the walkway are hurting their business. Downtown Wheaton needs more activity. People need to see that other people are here before they're willing to spend their time or money in the area - and, it seems, the new walkway's already gotten some attention.
That being said, those curmudgeonly residents who complain that it's "a waste of money" are a little right. Unless the path is connected to other pedestrian improvements in downtown, you won't see much more foot traffic because it'll continue to be an unsafe and undesirable place to walk. In the meantime, though, there are far bigger things keeping people from going to Wheaton than a few kids on skateboards.
And in Woodside, some residents of Woodside are nervous about the proposed skate spot in Woodside Park (the park) at Spring and Georgia - because the Department of Parks says it'll clear them out of Downtown's unused plazas and courtyards. I can appreciate their concern that the skater mob will march up their quiet streets as well.
It seems unlikely that everyone's going to give up their Downtown haunts because, after all, skating's as much about sport as it is about spectacle. You want to see and be seen, and a park several blocks away from the hustle and bustle of Downtown's main streets will not only seem unnecessarily secluded (not to mention too restrictive - how many kids do you see wearing the helmets and kneepads that'll be required here?) but a hassle to get to.
I could be wrong, of course. Many of the kids interviewed, sick of being hassled by security guards, feel having a place to go where they can skate and not be bothered is worth going to Woodside Park. You'll probably find that the kids who do go to Woodside Park will be more respectful of the neighborhood than those who will remain Downtown. After all, many of the kids who'll skate in Woodside Park already live nearby, and they aren't going to cut up if adults they know are watching.
The fight between Ruthless Skater Kids and Everyone Else seems to be shifting, as the county finally agrees to make accomodations for them. Police are aware that giving these kids a place to go will keep them out of trouble. And those in neighborhoods that will receive skate spots - one is planned to be built at the new White Oak Recreation Center - should feel comfortable that the right precautions will be taken to make these spaces as unintrusive as possible. I still don't skate (don't like things underneath me that move), but I'm really happy to see new skate spots opening across Montgomery County.
(Before we go, let's take a second to admire the glaring errors in just one of the Gazette stories mentioned here: referring to Woodside as the "downtown Silver Spring neighborhood of Woodside Urban Park," a County official who says skaters like to go to the "first level of an office building on the corner of Georgia and Wayne avenues" - are they inside the building? - and of course the photo, which is supposed to be of