OCEAN CITY – A surge in skateboarding violations has city officials questioning the current skateboarding law that was amended a couple years ago to legalize skateboarding on the Boardwalk during certain hours.
Last week the Ocean City Police Department issued a reminder to the general public of the town’s skateboarding laws due to an increasing number of ordinance violations in recent weeks. The reminder read, “Citizens are reminded that skateboarding on public property is prohibited between April 1 and Oct. 1. Skateboarders can, however, skateboard on the Boardwalk between 2 a.m. and 11 a.m.”
During Monday evening’s Mayor and City Council meeting, Councilwoman Margaret Pillas stated she found the police department’s reminder not thorough enough.
“It was not clear in the reminder that they can only be on skateboards going to work back and forth to be used as transportation,” Pillas said.
In October 2012, the City Council voted to amend the town’s skateboarding laws to allow skateboarding on the Boardwalk during the traditional bicycle hours in the summer. However, the town’s policy prohibiting skateboarding on public streets stayed in place.
The current law states, “it is unlawful for any person to ride, propel, push or otherwise operate a skateboard on the Boardwalk from Saturday of Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. of the following day. Also, it shall be unlawful for any person to ride, propel, push or otherwise operate a skateboard on the sea wall, railings or benches on or adjacent to the Boardwalk at any time. As well as, operate a skateboard on any other public street, public way, ramp, public alley, public sidewalk, public lots or any other public property except for public skateboard facilities, and public sponsored or authorized skateboard events within the corporate limits of Ocean City between April 1 and October 1 of each year.”
The idea to legalize skateboarding on the Boardwalk came up in September 2012 following a brief ban taking place on the use of certain 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.
“I would like to make a motion that we make an initial and immediate change to … our city code as it relates to the operation of skateboards on the Boardwalk,” Councilman Doug Cymek said at that time. “What I would ask the entire council is to support me in allowing skateboards to be operated consistent with the current hours that bicycles are operated.”
It was made clear the motion was strictly for allowing skateboards to be used for transportation on the Boardwalk not to be used for “performers” or tricks.
A month later, the council voted to pass an emergency ordinance that would allow skateboarding, for transportation purposes only, on the Boardwalk during the same schedule that bicycles are allowed.
“There was a motion made up here that says to allow skateboards on the Boardwalk for transportation purposes only but it never made it to the ordinance and that may be some of the confusion,” Pillas said this week. “Somewhere along the line we need to get this worked out where police officers have at least the correct ordinance based on the motion that was made.”
City Solicitor Guy Ayres responded “for transportation only” is unnecessary language to include in the ordinance.
“If you are on a skateboard, then you are being transported,” he said.
Police Chief Ross Buzzuro interjected the biggest problem the police department is experiencing is a citation can only be issued for those 18 years and older.
“If you are under the age of 18, there is nothing in the form of a citation that we can issue. It is more for us an education tool to educate the folks that are utilizing, and 98 percent of them are juveniles,” Buzzuro said.
Councilman Joe Mitrecic furthered the officers can ask skateboarders to leave the Boardwalk but they are exiting just to go around the block and return in short order.
“So, police officers are not doing it because I guess they know there is no teeth in the law,” Pillas said.
According to Ayres, as far as juveniles are concerned the only thing the town can do is contact juvenile authorities.
“We need a little help from the community, and we need a little help from the parents here. When we talked about this [legalizing skateboarding on the Boardwalk] there was a lot of support from the community, and I supported allowing them on the Boardwalk during the bike hours to give the opportunity, but they need to buy into it, too. They have to be responsible, and realize if they stay out after bicycle hours it is going to cause us to take another look at that ordinance,” Mayor Rick Meehan said.
Council Secretary Mary Knight, who volunteers at an information booth on the Boardwalk, said she has witnessed police officers approach skateboarders.
“I say 90 percent of them listen to the officer and the other 10 percent are extremely rude … we need help from the community and the parents because it is just not fair for the 90 percent of kids that listen because of the 10 percent that give them a bad rap,” she said.
The Recreation and Parks Department and the Police Department will continue to educate skateboarders on the town’s law, Buzzuro said.
“The skateboarders may be here for just a weekend or a day trip but by week’s end they are gone generally not knowing they were in violation, so we are taking the time to educate them,” he said. “The flagrant violators, or the homegrown violators, are the ones who we need to really get the message across that this isn’t acceptable.”
According to Cymek, who serves as Police Commission chairman, the police department is currently reviewing several Boardwalk policies with recommendations to come before the commission in September to review.
“We are going to be making some changes,” he said. “I have been putting the word out as much as I can, and I know the town has been putting ads out to have everyone aware that if you don’t abide by the ordinance things can change. We ask for cooperation.”