OPINION: There's a place for skateboards (or soon will be) but not bad behavior
It was a family vacation to remember -- until it came time for Drew Newman and his clan to check out of their Canal Park hotel. "As we walked toward our car, we came upon a large group of teenagers acting very unruly," the former Duluthian, now o...
It was a family vacation to remember -- until it came time for Drew Newman and his clan to check out of their Canal Park hotel. "As we walked toward our car, we came upon a large group of teenagers acting very unruly," the former Duluthian, now of Chesapeake, Va., wrote the News Tribune.
"Swear words [were] pouring out of all their mouths; two of them [were] on top of an SUV, violently rocking it back and forth. This scene left a sour taste [in] our mouth and was, unfortunately, our last impression of Duluth."
It's far from the lingering image anyone wants visitors to take home. But this summer -- with Canal Park attracting ever-larger groups of young Duluthians, a few of whom are causing problems -- the city's reputation has taken a beating.
Merchants in the DeWitt-Seitz building and the city have responded by replacing at least one sidewalk bench with pointed metal rails to discourage loitering. The merchants have also started calling police. "Businesses [are] all over us to do something," Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay told the News Tribune editorial page.
One group claiming to be unfairly targeted is skateboarders, who question whether police are picking on them while ignoring "real" criminals. Yet many skateboarders are scofflaws, too; 'boarding is illegal on sidewalks in Duluth business districts from7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. It's neverpermitted in the street.
"When I skate on sidewalks, I watch out for people and move out of the way, and I don't mess anything up," Duluth's Anthony Walsh, 14, told the editorial page. "Usually we're not wrecking anything and not getting in people's way."
So what's the answer?
Regarding skateboarders, one solution is already in the works. After a decade of fundraising, planning and delays, a skate park at Wheeler Field is only weeks from construction, according to Duluth Parks and Recreation Commission President Jim Topie, whose commentary is on the next page. The facility will give young people an easy-to-get-to place to hang out -- and something to do while they're there.
And the place for bad behavior unrelated to skateboarding? Not in Canal Park -- or anywhere.