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Duluth Skateboarders GTFO 2011

I emailed four at-large city council candidates and First District candidate Jennifer Julsrud to ask: “What do you think of the Canal Park skateboarding ban?”

Tim Riley | At-large Duluth City Council Candidate

After looking at the ordinance, some skateboarders at some time ran into pedestrians. And some complaints of property damage initiated the ordinance.

Are you thinking of proposing a skateboard park located near Canal Park? Please let me know your opinion concerning skateboarding there.


Emily Larson | At-large Duluth City Council Candidate

Tough question to answer succinctly, but here goes…

Long Answer: I’m disappointed we don’t have a decent skate park in Duluth. Most skaters I know head to public spaces (and Superior) looking for a way to enjoy their sport with some challenge and terrain. So maybe developing some recreational awesomeness for boarders is one option moving forward.

I personally enjoy a mix of folks and activity in Canal Park. Raising two sons, I appreciate that we want our public spaces to be available for everyone, including our young people, to enjoy. That feeling is also balanced with experience of Amazing Grace, the coffee chop founded by my husband Doug. We’d sold his part of it before the skateboarding conflict arose. I’m sympathetic to the impact of the few folks who choose to recreate disruptively. Certainly that’s the minority of folks who board. I don’t recall if the skateboarding community was welcomed into a discussion of the conflict and subsequent limits placed on boarding. So I’d like to learn more from you on that, the legalities around skateboarding (is it legal to board in the street?), and what best practice is in other communities regarding skateboarding.

Honestly, I’m not convinced Canal Park is the best place for recreational boarding, especially on sidewalks during the high season of tourism with people in and out of shops and the risk of distracted drivers.

Short answer: I’m all for skateboarding. And working with people (especially the boarding community) to identify the best places to make it happen. If it’s Canal Park, then let’s build to suit and / or talk about how to identify a way to make it a fun, safe and workable solution.


Chad Smith | At-large City Council Candidate

Thanks for the question. To put it simply, I don’t support the skateboarding ban in Canal Park. I work in that general area right now and when it was warmer it seemed like I still saw skateboarders all the time. That to me just shows how unenforceable, or at least unenforced, it is. One of my overarching beliefs in government is that rules shouldn’t be put on the books simply to put a rule there. It needs to have a genuine reason, and it absolutely should be enforceable. Putting an unenforceable rule on the books is just a waste of the council’s time and effort. Plus, by banning this in the area, it feels like they are trying to define a certain “image” of people who are welcome there, and those who aren’t. That’s something that makes me uncomfortable.

Basically, it’s a shame that a couple of bad apples spoiled this for the whole bunch, because it led to a disappointing ban that I wouldn’t have supported.


Linda Krug | At-large City Council Candidate

Thanks for your patience; I’ve been traveling for a couple of days and also wanted to have time to look a little at the skateboarding ban issue. After reading some of the 2009 news articles and thinking about the issue, I’d come down on the side of keeping the ban in place. I know I would think much differently about the issue if Canal Park were larger in size and less dense in terms of numbers of people, but it’s not and so my concern is a public safety one.


Jennifer Julsrud | First District City Council Candidate

Skateboarding can be a great way to get around town. My husband Erik, recently skateboarded to and from work (Lakeside to downtown Essentia). It’s also fun, recreational exercise, but the best place for skaters to work on jumps and tricks is at a skate park.

I support the ban on skateboarding in Canal Park’s areas of heavy pedestrian traffic. The ban was the result of a thoughtful collaboration between the business community and the police department. Canal Park needs to be a safe and relaxing place for everyone to enjoy. That being said, I would support the use of skateboards in the bike lanes, as a means of getting around Canal Park.

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46 Comment(s)

  1. Adam, did you initially leave out Tim Riley because he’s gay-marriage GTFO?

    Paul Lundgren | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  2. No, I didn’t e-mail him because he didn’t exist on the interwebz.

    adam | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  3. I saw a skateboarder weaving down 19th Ave yesterday, leading a parade of cars. It was cool.

    Claire | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  4. I think the ban was a bit of a council vendetta against “young punks.” If you were really out to ban a destructive, dangerous practices in the Canal Park area you would also ban bicycles, G. B. Leighton, driving, tourists and alcohol consumption. I would be surprised if you could prove skateboarding caused more damage or “incidents” than any one of the other items in my list. Penalize the offenders, not the masses.

    Elden | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  5. “my concern is a public safety one”

    My concern is a grammar one.

    Lojasmo | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  6. I’d sign the petition for a ban on G. B. Leighton in Canal Park. Can we also ban the wearing of capris by tourist ladies?

    VicariouS | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  7. Vicarious for city council!

    jessige | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  8. I just think anyone who’s against gay marriage is close-minded and afraid of taking a risk. Skateboarding is all about taking risks. Maybe I’m stereotyping. Let’s find Mr. Tim and ask him. I’ll bet I’m right, though…

    Claire | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  9. Project for Public Spaces is a simply amazing organization that deals with … public spaces. I encourage all of the candidates to look, listen and learn from this wonderful international organization rather than try to re-invent the wheel. Here’s a submission about a skate park nominated as a, gasp, Great Public Space

    For the record I support repeal of the skateboarding ban. I have been in Canal Park, including Amazing grace a few times when there were annoying skateboarders. I also had several times when skateboarders putting on a show earned me a few bucks as a mobile food vendor. You’ll have losers and winners in every activity. If you can’t appreciate the vibrance of diversity then I think we need to at least express some tolerance of others. One of the key findings of what makes a place great is diversity not homogeneity. Why is it still so unsettling for some people then?

    wildgoose | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  10. Do you even own a skateboard Adam?

    Starfire | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  11. Nah. But I’m not gay either.

    adam | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  12. Can we all just agree to ban gay skateboarders in Canal Park? Or even just gay skateboards?

    Vicarious | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  13. Young people are no more likely to be punks than old people. But young punks are much more likely to be skateboarders than old punks. Old punks are much more likely to be layers than young punks.

    Sam | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  14. Adam not gay? Damn! Now I’m hot for him.

    Baci | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  15. …lawyers

    Sam | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  16. Wildgoose supports repeal of the ban. That comment gave me whiplash.

    brian | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  17. I am conflicted about the ban on the sidewalks of Canal Park proper, but please tell me that they are allowed on the Lakewalk. No?

    David Beard | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  18. I ♥ skateboarders. For some, it’s their means of transportation. For others, a means of sport and creativity.

    It’s fun to watch them. Whether they’re just gliding-seemingly-effortlessly down some road (19th), or doing tricks in Canal Park, the lower Library area, or anywhere. (Most places they actually do their tricks are dead zones, as I’ve noticed, or as Wildgoose said, a means of entertainment actually enhancing their location.) It’s not like they wander around in packs or gangs intimidating residents and tourists (like some mentioned below).

    My kids and their friends board, and I know some pro-guys nearly my age who board and have their own line of gear. I wish I had the guts/ability to board (my knees cringe), as it looks so fun, and especially now that the Chitty of Dull-uth has finally fixed my craters-of-the-moon-death-zone into a very smooooove street.

    Street surfing. Tricksters. Whatever. Bring it.

    I grew up in Minneapolis, and when they laid new bitumen it was only fresh-n-smooth for about a day — if that, then they’d come round and spray down a coating of smelly tar and then nasty gravel over the top. Smooth streets were rare — so we didn’t board. You’d die, or become hamburger trying.

    Go the skaters!

    There’s totally no comparison to the annoying-as-fuck crappy rental-bike thingys that the no-clue-how-to-drive/navigate idiots ride on the Lakewalk, or the annoying loud-mouth-out-of-town-newly-moved-here-from-another-state-to-reap-the-MN bennies-no jobs-lamers hangin ’round the Library/Holiday/Transit Centers/Upper Lakewalk concourse-wandering-all-over-downtown-jaywalking-in-the-way-all-day-every-day sorts hands down. Ban them I say!

    *Shakes fist*eyedarts*shakes fist*

    +1 Skaters!

    ruby2sd4y | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  19. Skateboard in Lincoln Park. Wheeler Field Skate Park.

    reddomain | Sep 30, 2011 | New Comment
  20. If we allow gay marriage, whats next? Skaters wanting to marry their boards?

    Danny G | Oct 1, 2011 | New Comment
  21. That’s Skater Marriage, Danny.

    zra | Oct 1, 2011 | New Comment
  22. I used to skate all the time even still, in my older years, try to roll around at least a couple times a year. Among many other things, skateboarding is all about balance and going with as apposed to against. In my experience lawsuits are one of the main concerns among business owners especially. It is a unwritten law among all skaters that if you fall and hurt yourself anywhere, anytime, you do not sue. This is serious code to all that call themselves skaters. It would make me happy if this could finally become to public knowledge.

    ElPete | Oct 1, 2011 | New Comment
  23. As a former vert-ramp in the back yard suburban punk, I tried to give back a few years ago. I gathered teens to attend several city meetings around the Wheeler Field project.

    I met some really top-notch folks dedicated to the good fight. Especially Jim Thorpe. But, the lack of money for this city improvement remains a frustrating hurtle.

    The Wheeler field park is only built-out to 1/3 of the total plan, yet I always see kids out there unless there’s 2′ of snow.

    My position: we need the city to support skate parks financially and complete the Wheeler project.

    Skaters don’t wear uniforms and blow out their knees by 17: But, they are dedicated athletes who deserve our support.

    banjo tom | Oct 1, 2011 | New Comment
  24. Getting money means changing opinions, which is easier said than done.

    zra | Oct 1, 2011 | New Comment
  25. I think Adam is on the right track for supporting this whole skateboard thing, and maybe Canal Park should be banned instead (if it wasn’t providing the only income Duluth squanders). I’ve always thought skateboarders were easily the most under appreciated athletes. I highly recommend the Epically Latered series for anyone seeking to understand the history of this incredible sport and its under sung heroes, or Dogtown and Z boys if you haven’t seen it. I started skating in ’87, it was a big deal when I pulled my first frontside air on a Hosoi model.

    Miles A Broad | Oct 1, 2011 | New Comment
  26. Furthermore, the council should vote to surcharge patrons of Canal as they play witness to spectacular feats as rarely seen in their daily grind, before they erupt into applause and wander off to go find a coney.

    Miles A Broad | Oct 1, 2011 | New Comment
  27. I can respect someone who’s able to bomb down Mesaba on a skateboard and make a left turn through lights and traffic without stopping far more than anyone who can dictate a verbal/written restriction.

    SkatRadioh | Oct 1, 2011 | New Comment
  28. Re: GB Leighton and capris: Sing it, sister! Could not agree more.

    As for skateboarders, they are way more agile and safe than those behemoth double-wide bikes. But they spend less $$ so we know how this will play out. Oh well, if skateboarders were welcomed they’d be less cool.

    jane | Oct 1, 2011 | New Comment
  29. @ElPete: I believe you about the culture of skaters not suing people if they get hurt. Consider, however, that the issue might be out of the skater’s hands. I can imagine his or her insurance company, when faced with a large medical bill, looking around for somebody to sue. Or a skater without insurance left injured and unable to pay the bill. The rest of us end up paying for that.

    If this really is what worries business owners, I don’t think an understanding that “skaters won’t sue you” would help.

    Beverly | Oct 2, 2011 | New Comment
  30. Well, uninsured people get in car crashes all the time and the rest of us are left with the burden of the bills they can’t afford, but I don’t see politicians banning cars.

    Tom | Oct 2, 2011 | New Comment
  31. @Tom: True, but there are lots of laws that restrict our freedom to drive cars. Laws require that we wear seat belts, obey the speed limit, be a certain age, pass an eye test. The list is long, of course. Same with motorcycle helmet laws. We’re protecting society with laws like this, not just the individuals.

    My comment was specific to ElPete and his hope that an understanding about skaters’ mindsets would change the minds of businessmen. I think that it wouldn’t.

    Beverly | Oct 2, 2011 | New Comment
  32. Why do skateboarders want to skate in Canal Park? I don’t even like walking by that many people.

    cork1 | Oct 2, 2011 | New Comment
  33. I do have to wonder how much of this is just an intense desire to be where you are not allowed and how much of this is that Canal Park is great skating locations.

    David Beard | Oct 3, 2011 | New Comment
  34. David, I agree, sort of. I think the intense desire is not to go where they are not allowed, but mainly to be seen. And the best place to be seen, is where there are the most people. That is why I don’t think that building a great skate park is the solution to the Canal Park issue. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see a great skate park, and I know many kids (and some adults) would go there, but not all kids will, and kids will still go to Canal Park. Street riding is as much a part of the skating allure as riding in a skate park.

    Elden | Oct 3, 2011 | New Comment
  35. Very helpful!

    David Beard | Oct 3, 2011 | New Comment
  36. “I saw a skateboarder weaving down 19th Ave yesterday, leading a parade of cars. It was cool.”

    REALLY?!? Okay, then, I’m gonna just go wandering on foot in the left lane of I-35 and see how everyone stops for me and see how cool that is.

    I have traveled all over the world and NOWHERE else is it acceptable for people to randomly walk or board in busy traffic. Anywhere else in the world, you will get hit by a car and severly injured. Period. But yet in Duluth I have had to slam on my brakes for people randomly walking/boarding into traffic countless times. This is completely assinine that we are expected to stop and make way for these morons. I say, keep it up, but why don’t you please try it somewhere else other than Duluth and then tell me how “cool” it is then?

    Ugh | Oct 3, 2011 | New Comment
  37. I’d be inclined to think people have wandered and skateboarded into busy traffic in other places than Duluth, but since the previous commenter has traveled all over the world and assured us in all-caps that it happens nowhere else, I guess I just have to believe it and recognize Duluth is even more unique than I thought.

    Coincidentally, I just randomly walked into traffic yesterday. It felt like an honest mistake due to preoccupation, but maybe I was just trying to tell people how cool I am. Either way, it was asinine of the driver of the oncoming car to slow down for me. He should have ran me over to make a point, like anyone would in a community other than Duluth.

    Paul Lundgren | Oct 3, 2011 | New Comment
  38. I nearly got taken out by a double-decker bus in Kowloon because I was looking left right left instead of right left right.

    Silly American.

    zra | Oct 3, 2011 | New Comment
  39. Paul, I believe the poster said it wasn’t acceptable, not that it didn’t happen…

    Jadiaz | Oct 3, 2011 | New Comment
  40. Yes. Duluth is the only place in the entire world where it is acceptable to wander or skateboard into traffic. It is not acceptable anywhere else.

    I appreciate the opportunity to clarify this.

    Paul Lundgren | Oct 3, 2011 | New Comment
  41. When were you in Hong Kong, Z?

    I was there in ’93. Blew my mind that they had cell phone repeaters on the subway. This was before the Reds took over so who knows if they’re still there. Anyway, you can forgive them for driving down the wrong side of the street, they’ve done a lot with a litle, down in that town.

    wildgoose | Oct 3, 2011 | New Comment
  42. Thrice … 1990, ’91 and ’93. And yeah … their tech vs. our tech in the early 90s? So much better.

    zra | Oct 3, 2011 | New Comment
  43. @Beverly: Since when do skaters have health insurance?

    @ndy | Oct 4, 2011 | New Comment
  44. @Beverly: Are these statements based on assumptions or personal experience? I’ve seen zero insurance claims brought to business owners. Both in instances of skaters with and without insurance. The skaters without insurance paid out of pocket.

    ElPete | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  45. Ugh, I’ve seen worse on 19th Avenue East. I’ve seen worse in Duluth. I’ve seen worse in other cities. I’ve seen worse in other countries. All I ask is that people stop at that four-way stop sign on the corner.

    Claire | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  46. @@andy: Yeah, you’re right. Although kids are still on their parents’ policies, I suppose.

    @ElPete: You’re right that you have more factual experience to speak of. My comments are not based on much, really. My parents were sued by someone who got hurt on their property. Their backyard is a large hill, and a kid unknown to them and uninvited went across the hill on a sled, crashed and knocked out a tooth. My parents had very little to do with the lawsuit; it was between the insurance companies. It’s probable the other family pursued the lawsuit, however.

    Maybe my first comment was wrong, but I don’t think so. It’s my general belief that insurance companies will work very hard not to pay money, and they’ll go looking for it where they can.

    Beverly | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment

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