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Council revisits skateboard issue

By Staff | Mar 18, 2008

Estherville’s Council Chambers were packed Monday with skateboarders, their parents and one grandmother who asked council members what can be done to provide youth who enjoy skateboard a safe place to go.

Speaking for the group was Niki Origer who told council that “everyone needs to be on the same page.”

She and the entire group noted that the youth are asked to leave everywhere they try to skateboard.

It was October 2007 Origer approached council about the issue and was referred to the Estherville Parks and Rec Department. She was informed skateboarders were welcome to use the slab of cement by the new tennis courts.

Origer said the first night the skateboarders went there, they were “run out by the police.” The same situation repeated itself Saturday.

While Chief of Police Eric Milburn was not aware of a Saturday incident, he said a complaint of noise after dark prompted police presence.

She cited how three skateboarders were cited on March 11 for skateboarding near the former Jane’s Place.

“This is utterly ridiculous,” she told council. “They are getting chased and all they want to do is have some fun”

Origer said the police said “their hands were tied and to go to city council.”

Milburn clarified the situation by saying a complaint was received about the skateboarders in that section of South Sixth Street. “When we get a complaint, we can’t ignore the situation.”

When asked why all of the youth weren’t given a ticket, Milburn explained, “We have to prove guilt. Two of them admitted their guilt and one was observed.”

Milburn said he did not know if a skateboard had been confiscated that night as a parent reported the incident had occurred to council.

It was also pointed out the ordinance forbids skateboarders, bicyclists, roller skaters, etc., on sidewalks but not in the street which is where the skateboarders were that evening the police arrived.

Milburn suggested that they plead “not guilty at this point,” until the council can amend the ordinance.

Estherville City Administrator Steve Woodley said the council is the legislative body which holds the power of amending or deleting ordinances.

“The kids have to have a place to go,” said an unidentified parent. “They are not on the main streets and they aren’t destroying public or private property.”

The chief countered that private property is being destroyed, citing Jane’s Place, Emmet County State Bank, the Post Office.

“The Presbyterian Church,” offered Councilwoman Lori Donovan.

Kim Steffes says she understands the reasoning behind the ordinance. “But these kids need a place. Right now they don’t have a place and they need a safe place to skate. And yes, if they are in the street and in traffic, ticket them.”

It was also noted by the cement slab near the tennis courts is remotely situated without the use of rest room facilities or a place to go for refreshments. Council learned the slab has cracks and grass is growing in spots.

“The main issue here is skateboarders have no place to go,” Councilman Gene Haukoos said. He said the ramps he and his son built were destroyed in two years thanks to the bicyclists who chose to ride on them.

“We need to build a modern facility.”

He added that Spencer’s skate park carried a quarter-of-a-million-dollar price tag while Algona spent $50,000 on their skateboarding site.

The group was encouraged to organize and get to a point where a goal could be included in the parks and rec’s long-term plan. Woodley, Mayor Lyle Hevern, Haukoos and Donovan urged the parents and skateboarders to formalize ideas and develop a plan.

“Get organized and show some interest,” Woodley said.

Haukoos offered to purchase the $25 CD for the group. It gives step-by-step instruction on how to build a skate park, raise necessary funding, etc.

Skateboarders were cautioned to stay away from South Sixth Street.

Milburn added that with specific owner permission, they can skate all they want on private property.

Hevern noted this is a concept that would fit nicely with Excel! Estherville strategic plan.

The group left council chambers and this time the wheels were spinning in their heads as they work toward organization.