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Bikers, skaters look for places to ride

May 13, 1999

By JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




When Martinsburg, W.Va., banned skateboards from public places eight years ago Mike Sullivan became a skateboarding nomad in search of a place he can kick flip and ollie.

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He used to go to a skate church in Greencastle, Pa., until that closed, then he went to a skate park in Smithsburg until that one closed.

For now Sullivan, 22, and his friends skate in empty parking lots such as the former Pizza Hut lot off Virginia Avenue near Halfway.

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"But we usually get kicked out anyway," Sullivan said recently.

Sullivan is one of many young people in the Tri-State area searching for places to skateboard, in-line skate or bike because an increasing number of municipalities are banning those activities in public places.

Martinsburg Police receive complaints about skaters in public places, Police Chief Ted Anderson said. Sometimes they get complaints when the skaters are in their own driveways, he said.

The noise caused by jumping on and off plywood ramps can violate the noise ordinance. The department will respond to such complaints, but they aren't a high priority, Anderson said.

Hancock banned bikes, skateboards and in-line skates from sidewalks less than two weeks ago. Sharpsburg elected officials are considering banning bikes from all town sidewalks. Boonsboro officials are drafting a sidewalk ban for skaters.

Sullivan has been looking forward to Friday's opening of a new skate park at Maranatha Brethren Church on Scott Hill Drive off Jefferson Boulevard.

The Smithsburg skate park donated its equipment to Maranatha, which already had begun building ramps because some skaters joined the church, said Pastor Ron Shank.

"We're hoping that it will be something the kids will enjoy and that they'll feel when they come here they are accepted, and they feel safe," Shank said.

The Boy Scouts of America has insured five skate parks in the Tri-State area, of which only three are active: Maranatha and one each in Waynesboro, Pa., and Shippensburg, Pa.

Calvary Assembly of God in Waynesboro began a skate church last year and will reopen it on June 12, said Richard Stump, youth pastor.

"We all have the same goal in mind for providing a place for these kids to skate," Stump said.

The skate churches are open to the public. Participants pay an annual fee, wear helmets, sign up to join the Boy Scouts Venturing Crews and participate in a five- to 10-minute devotional period that involves reading Scriptures, officials said.

The skate churches have age limitations, generally between 14 and 20. Adult advisers help youths hone their skills, officials said.

Dustin Keener, 18, of State Line, Pa., came to Hagerstown on Tuesday with two bicycling buddies in search of a different place to ride.

While biking and skating isn't banned in State Line, Keener said the Tri-State area needs more facilities because of the number of towns with bans.

Yogi Martin, chairman of the Washington County Recreation and Parks advisory board, said skaters need places to go, but other activities with higher participation levels, such as soccer, take priority.

Local governments have been lax in providing inexpensive places where youths can go, said Jerry Zeigler, code enforcement officer for Washington Township, Pa.

"They really have no place to congregate, to call their own, to skateboard," Zeigler said.

Not everyone is interested in Little League, said Zeigler, who recalled having trouble finding a recreational place to go when he was a child.

The master plan for the township's Pine Hill Recreation Area includes an in-line skating trail, a roller hockey rink and a skateboard park with ramps, but isn't expected to be ready for at least three years, Zeigler said.

A BMX track could be ready at the Hagerstown Fairgrounds as early as mid-June and a roller hockey pad within two years, officials said. There is no time line set for the planned skateboard park.

-- Here's where to bike and skate

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