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Welcome, Skateboarders

A Park In Hartford - Hartford should lift its ban, build a proper bowl

The Hartford Courant

June 28, 2010

The barren little park atop the I-84 platform in downtown Hartford was an urban planning afterthought in the 1990s, built to fill the space until something better came along. People scurry past it to get from parking lots to office buildings, and few actually stop there to sit and read the paper or commune with nature. Hardly anyone uses the park except skateboarders.

So popular is New Ross County Wexford Park (named for Hartford's Irish Sister City) that the skater boys and girls have been calling it "Heaven" for a decade or so. Loose-limbed young board riders from the region, and sometimes from around the country, shoot across the brick plaza and back walls.

A task force of business leaders, members of neighborhood groups and skateboarders, formed last year, has proposed turning the area into an official skate park. It would include a poured-concrete bowl, an urban art wall and a stage for periodic music performances. The city council is considering the skate park idea, along with a concurrent proposal to drop the city's intermittently enforced 33-year-old ban on skateboarders.

Both ideas deserve support, as long as private property owners can choose to ban skateboarding. Some do so because skaters can cause wear-and-tear on steps, railings, etc. But if skateboarders have a top skate park to work out in, they'll be less likely to nick up the corporate street furniture.

If the park is properly realized, it will bring people downtown and create some positive activity. Skateboarders aren't gang members, they are athletes. With the country facing a childhood obesity crisis, all athletic activity ought to be encouraged. Besides, an active skate park is a much better tribute to the friendly folks of New Ross than an urban void.

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Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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