We were impressed with the directness with which Winston-Salem council members reacted to a recent request to ban skateboarding in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.
While we sympathize with WFIQ President Eric Tomlinson, who is spearheading perhaps the most important project in our region, we can’t agree that extending the ban on skateboarding from downtown to the quarter is in the public’s best interest.
Private parties have given rise to the transformative success that is the WFIQ. But public money would go toward the enforcement headache that would result in an attempt to run skaters out of the quarter itself.
Tomlinson brought the request to the city council’s public safety committee on Sept. 8. Much to the committee’s credit, they held him at bay instead of rubberstamping the proposal.
Councilwoman Denise Adams put it bluntly, summing up her priorities.
“I would rather you protect the neighborhoods from break-ins and burglary than skateboarders,” she said.
And she’s right. With limited resources and a citywide poverty level above 20 percent, quality of life policing in residential neighborhoods takes precedence over running kids out of the city’s crown jewel.
But Tomlinson has a point as well when he notes that the damage caused by skaters could limit potential future investment in the quarter. We think there should be a compromise.
The Wake Forest Innovation Quarter could blossom into something that defines the city, and quite possibly our state, for the next century. A true innovation would be to incorporate a major recreational structure into the future expansion plans for the development.
Much to the city’s credit, plans are in the works to put a permanent skate park out at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds.
As WFIQ plans its next major expansion, project boosters should take a hard look at incorporating public amenities – yes even a first-class, hardscape skate park complete with bowls and half pikes and rails galore – into its development plans.
Embracing the kids, instead of running them off, would be truly innovative. !
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