Tuesday, July 27, 2010

One More Sign

It appears that the skateboarders' (and scooters'?) reign over the Veterans Plaza ice rink has come to an inglorious end after just three short weeks. The following sign has recently been posted in the plaza:

Two things about this sign:

A. Where does one obtain a permit to drink alcohol?*

B. I hate to be the Grammar Gestapo, but is it not "Veterans Plaza"? It is intended to honor all veterans, not just one, right? Or would that make it Veterans' Plaza? Confused.

*Yes, I know what this actually refers to.

Here's the (verbose) explanation from the Silver Spring Regional Center as to why this rule was implemented:


Skateboarding on Veterans Plaza has become the subject of much heated debate. The skateboarding community has embraced the Plaza as a place to skateboard. This has created tension in our community among many of our community members. There is no easy or perfect solution to this situation. Different groups in our community have very different opinions of “what is the right thing to do”. We have listened to many voices. We have had countless conversations and sought input from all segments of the community.

Our decision may not be the perfect decision; but, hopefully, it is a decision that most community members can live with. We commit to continue dialoging with all community members wanting to do so. Some issues remain unresolved – and we want to continue working on those issues.

We want to make sure that Veterans Plaza is a place welcoming of all community members. The Plaza is a place for all to come to, to gather, to enjoy. It is our public square. All community members should feel equally comfortable and equally welcomed in this shared space.

We all agree that skateboarding is a good, healthy activity. Our skateboarding community includes some of our finest youth, adults, and children of all ages. We want our skateboarding community to embrace Veterans Plaza. However, the activity of skateboarding itself is simply not an acceptable activity on the Plaza. The same could be said for many other perfectly good, healthy activities that other community members may engage in elsewhere. The activities themselves are ok - but not on the Plaza… Again, all community members are welcome on the Plaza. However, the activities that community members engage in on the Plaza must be regulated.

The activities that community members sharing the space engage in on the Plaza should be activities that are embracing of other community members. Of course, criminal activity – or activity that is intentionally disruptive and/or destructive - has no place on our Plaza and will be dealt with expediently. (Let’s be clear: Skateboarding is neither a criminal activity nor intentionally disruptive or destructive.)

Activities that are unintentionally disruptive or destructive are more difficult to deal with, and pose a different challenge. Beyond that, even activities that claim a particular part of the Plaza for exclusive daily use by a segment of the community can create unwarranted tension among community groups with different interests.

In the short time since the Plaza opened, skateboarding on the Plaza has been viewed by some as a harmless, welcomed ‘free entertainment’. This has been evidenced by the crowds of ‘spectators’ seating around the steps of the ice-rink enjoying the skateboarders doing their thing. Others have seen it as a hindrance to their enjoyment of the Plaza because of the constant loud pounding noise of skateboards on the cement and the use of the brick and pavers areas as a runway to jump onto the ice-rink area, impeding pedestrian flow. Many skateboarders have respected this and have limited their skateboarding to the ice-rink area. However, not all skateboarders have embraced this limitation.

An unfortunate unintentional consequence of skateboarding on the Plaza is the physical damage being caused to the facility. Skateboarding on the Plaza has –unintentionally - caused damage to the handrails; has already begun to wear down the wooden benches; and have chipped away some of the concrete steps. We are sure that it is not the intent of the skateboarders to cause this damage. Yet, allowing the activity of skateboarding everywhere on the Plaza inevitably leads to damage of certain parts of the facility. Most skateboarders have respected staying away from the rails and benches. However, it is simply impossible to monitor or regulate this on an on-going basis, or get this message to all new skateboarders consistently in time to avoid this unintended damage.

The safety of the skateboarders is another issue. The Plaza was simply not designed as a skate park. Therefore, skateboarders have ingeniously found ‘challenges’ that may put them at risk of serious injury. Some have tried to ‘jump’ from the wall above the ‘skatehouse’, which is at least 10 feet tall. This is simply a very dangerous thing. Again, consistently and successfully regulating this activity goes well beyond the scope of what the operation of this Plaza was ever intended to be.

Fortunately, as of Friday, July 30th , a new skate spot opens in Woodside Park, less than ½ mile from Veterans Plaza (a comfortable 5 minute ‘skateboard’-walk away.)* This new skate spot is adjacent to other athletic opportunities, including basketball, handball, and tennis – as well as areas in which to simply sit and enjoy the ambiance. Additionally, there is a skate park being planned in Takoma Park, about a mile south of Veterans Plaza.

We understand that some may view the Woodside Park new skate spot as an incomplete solution. If you feel this way, we want to continue working with you on a broader, more comprehensive solution to the issue of skateboarding in Silver Spring. If you have questions, concerns, or suggestions, (or want to get together as a group) please contact me anytime. To start, I invite you to come by the Civic Building this Wednesday, July 28th at6:30 p.m. to discuss ‘where we go from here’.


Anonymous said...

Oh the horror! Skateboarders might have to find another place or another activity that interests them!

While I agree that there needs to be a dedicated skate park somewhere close in, it's ridiculous the amount of babying and handholding there is over this issue. Skateboarders make up a VERY VERY small fraction of the overall number of users of the plaza (less than 1/4 of 1 percent?). Yes, kids need activities but if you don't have a skatepark then go somewhere you are ALLOWED to skate or find something else that interests you. Just because you are a skateboarder does not give you the right to skate anywhere you want. We don't play basketball in the middle of the plaza do we?

There are endless sports and activities that the county provides facilities for...MoCo has some of the best in the country! To say that the entire Veterans Plaza set of rules has to cater to this activity is absurd. This reminds me of kids who only eat chicken fingers because their parents only gave them what didn't make them cry.

Copy editor said...

I'll be the grammar cop -- the sign should read Veterans Plaza, no apostrophe.

JS said...

I'll have to read this post later. I'm usually sleeping at Veteran's Plaza between 6:01 a.m. and 11:59 p.m.

Springvale Roader said...

Why not make Veteranz Plaza (there, I resolved the grammar question) available to people to sleep in overnight? I.e., why not let homeless people sleep there, so long as they are not bothering anyone?

I'm not crazy about the idea, but on the other hand, homeless people need to sleep somewhere, just like the rest of us, and if the shelters are too crowded or dangerous or whatnot, then people without homes are left to sleep in the streets. So, why not open Veterans Plaza to them? Besides --and I mean this non-sarcastically -- plenty of homeless are veterans who have fallen on tough times.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised if cops won't mind if there's a couple homeless people in the plaza. i think the county (rightly) just doesn't want it to become too slummy and will kick people out if the number of homeless using the area gets out of hand.

Bruce said...

I can't believe Veterans Plaza has been open for all this time and we have yet to come up with a cutesy, hip, annoying, only-the-locals-call-it-that-name like The Plaz, VPZ, Chez Vetz, or something. Also.

Sligo said...

Not original, but I am hereby dubbing it "The Vet".

Thayer Avenue said...

The Vet has too many bad Philadelphia Eagles connotations. I still think The Box can refer to the building itself as well as the area around it.

Walker said...

According to the Veterans Administration (no apostrophe), Veterans Day doesn't have the apostrophe "because it is not a day that 'belongs' to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans," so I guess that's appropriate here. Whatever.

In any case, it's currently wrong, though not as egregious as Cresent Trail or (WTF?) Montogomery College.

Does anyone proofread these things? Or do they just figure it costs too much to fix? Baltimore calls itself "The City That Reads." Guess we don't.

I'd be happy if the White House would just it right on their website.
"Vice President Joe Biden sits with the audience ... in Silver Springs, MD..." --
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2009/09?page=1 (under "Traveling with the VP")

Sligo said...

Yes, but that Vet got blow'd up so the name is available. And I hate the Eagles, too, so there's the irony factor, I guess.

Bethany said...

If they're in favor of healthful activities that don't affect others, why is smoking allowed? I expected it to be considered a public park space and not have smoking allowed but I've twice had to get up and leave my just started picnic because someone started smoking a cigarette or cigar on the next bench. I realize I'm slightly more sensitive than most people (horribly asthmatic) but for a place that welcomes kids it seemed a bit surprising to me.

MT said...

The benches for the homeless to sleep are provided, but has a place been designated for them to use to relieve themselves when they wake up? Another sign is needed.

Big Bubba said...

If you are going pick apart the grammar you should also take note of "No skateboarding, rollerblading or scooters." It should read "No skateboarding, rollerblading or scootering" or "No skateboarding, rollerblading or scooting" or "No skateboarding or rollerblading, and no scooters."

Anonymous said...

Or "No skateboards, rollerblades, or scooters"

Adam said...

So skateboarding, rollerblading, and scooters are out. Maybe now we'll get groups out there on pogo sticks, BMX bikes, and big wheels since those aren't explicitly disallowed.

brains from my father said...

All of this makes me miss the turf, which allowed for many different activities--lounging, kicking around a soccer ball, throwing a football, toddlers running about. Now with the plaza you can...sit down.

And the County's letter was the most saccharine piece of writing I've read in a long time. It tries so hard to make sure that no one will take offense that it loses all dignity. Just come right out and say that skate boarding needs to stop because it's damaging public property. That's a perfectly good reason.

Anonymous said...

The sense of entitlement by many people posting here is absurd. It's not a skate park, as in, not meant for skating. As in, don't skate there. Why is there even a debate about this?

Should skaters have somewhere to go? I think so, and others have said they just built one nearby. But for posters here to be outraged that the County (which I think is usually ridiculous) wants to protect its million dollar civic center from being destroyed by skateboarding kids is absurd. It's not a skate park because it wasn't built as one. Get over it. For the same reasons, I will not be playing baseball or basketball there this Saturday. I'll go to a field or a court. Are you all really that ridiculously dense that you don't get this concept?


Danielle Meitiv said...

I kind of liked watching the skateboarders but knew it wouldn't - and shouldn't - last. It really is too damaging and dangerous for such a multi-use area. I am glad there is a skate park. Skateboarding is a pretty cool activity and has been so vilified that it really does need its own space.

The letter was a bit obsequious (it is possible to be a bit obsequious?) but I respected what they were trying to do/say: most skateboarders are teens and while we grown-ups may be able to get the subtlety, most teens and especially those who have already received a lot of crap for their favored activity are going to get defensive. Spelling things out very carefully to make sure folks realize their needs are also being respected is OK in my book. Anyone who thinks they could have just come out and said it without all the tiptoeing has never worked with teens -or just doesn't care how they feel.

WashingtonGardener said...

Bethany and all - smoking is NOT allowed on the Veterans Plaza. They announce it at concerts and events there, but other than that, I, like you, have not seen it enforced. I'd like to see the standing-chatting cops at least inform folks of this rule.

Anonymous said...

Downtown Silver Spring is a huge failure! My family and I usually go up to the Rockville Town Center or we trek all the way over to the new National Harbor.

Sad part is we only live 5 minutes away from the DTSS area right off Colesville but find the area completely disgusting and full of thugs.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the most recent poster will enjoy living in a small, white village in the middle of rural South Carolina.

Euphrosyne Gardner said...

Skateboarding and roller-blading are cool to watch, but many ordinary pedestrians who aren't adult athletes find being around boarders and bladers to be an uncomfortable and intimidating experience. This would include many older visitors, the disabled, and parents with young children. Getting smacked into by a blader is fine if you're a fit 30-year-old guy, but may be a real problem if you're a 70-year old grandma with a bad hip, or a 5-year-old little kid. Surgery and physcial therapy can be very expensive.