OCEAN CITY – The legalization of skateboarding effort has gotten a shot in the arm recently as a petition has hit the web to bring the issue back to the Mayor and Council.
For about a week now, a petition has been circulating via the Internet. The petition is titled, Mayor and City Council: Legalize Skateboarding in Ocean City, Maryland, and can be found on change.org.
The petition was created by Ocean City resident Mick Chester. As of Thursday morning, the petition had gained 136 signatures. Chester said his goal is to reach at least 1,000 signatures and plans to submit it to the council no later than the end of the year.
The petition states, “Skateboarding is currently illegal and tickets are given out for simply skating down the road. It’s hard to believe that we host a huge skateboarding event, Dew Tour, yet it’s illegal for them [competing skateboarders] to skate anywhere in the city. Skateboarding shouldn’t be allowed for three days out of the year when the Dew Tour is in town it should be legal all year round.”
The petition goes on to say, “Skateboarding is a healthy and environmentally friendly way to get around town. How can you justify the use of a law written back in the 70’s? It’s time for change and modernization of the laws in this beach town.”
Ocean City’s law says it’s unlawful for any person to ride, propel push or otherwise operate a skateboard on Atlantic Avenue (the boardwalk) or any ramps, railings or benches adjoining thereto at any time. It is also unlawful for any person to ride, propel, push or otherwise operate a skateboard on any public street, public way, public alley, public sidewalk, public lots and other public property (except for public skateboard facilities and publicly sponsored or authorized skateboard events) within the corporate limits of Ocean City between April 1 and Oct. 1.
Chester said he decided to form the petition after seeing professional skateboarder Bucky Lasek advocate the legalization of skateboarding in Ocean City while he was in town competing in the Dew Tour a few weeks ago. Lasek had gone out of his way to make and wear a T-shirt stating “Legalize Skateboarding” and wore it during the competitions finals.
“I would have expected to hear something out of the city on this issue, but it never came,” Chester said. “So one day I was sitting at home and thought of making a petition to see how many people actually had the same idea as he and I did on this issue. Hopefully, we can all come to an agreement on making skateboarding legal year-round and not just in the off-season.”
Chester, 20, grew up in beach communities around the country, such as San Diego, Honolulu and now Ocean City. He said for the most part the local municipalities had supported the local surf and skate scene but when he returned to this area in 2009 he found Ocean City different from what he remembered.
“This is a beach town with a lot of red tape and restrictions on activities you would think of when you come to a beach like surfing, skateboarding and ocean and beach-related activities,” Chester said. “There are many more problems I see in this town that are either over looked or brushed aside while something so little as skating down the road can warrant a ticket.”
Chester furthered that he finds it amazing that Ocean City can host one of the largest skateboarding event in the world, Dew Tour, but it is illegal for any of the competitors to skate down the street.
“While Dew Tour is in town, it’s kind of a law that is pushed aside for a few days but soon as they leave its back to business as usual when it comes to the enforcement of law,” he said.
The town’s laws regarding skateboarding and surfing have been a topic of discussion among city officials in the last couple of months.
It all started in early July when a brief ban took place on the use of body boards on Ocean City’s beaches but was quickly lifted when city officials realized the town code was formed in 1972 and a simple fix would be to modernize the language within the law.
The council voted to change the law and the definition of “boogie” board was replaced with a “soft top body board”, which is now described as a flexible semi-soft, buoyant, semi-curved object, no longer than 54 inches long, no wider than two feet, not thicker than four inches.
Following the vote, Jenny Carven, co-owner of Ish Boutique, pointed out to the council that the town has other regulations related to extracurricular activities that also need to be changed to keep up with modern day society, in particular the limitations in surfing locations and skateboarding being illegal in Ocean City.
Just a couple weeks later, the council brought up the issue voluntarily at the conclusion of a weekly meeting and tasked City Manager David Recor to meet with Chief of Police Bernadette DiPino and “experts” on skateboards, such as local surf and skate shop managers, to come up with a recommendation in making a change to the current law that bans skateboards from the city’s streets.
That was the last time the topic has publically been discussed by city officials, but word is the topic will return for discussion and recommendations in the coming months.