Can skaters, scooters coexist at skate park?
Can scooters and skaters coexist on San Clemente's Ralphs Skate Court?
It's a question local officials are taking up at the request of some scooter-riding youths and their parents who want the city to legalize scooters on the 14,000-square-foot facility the city built in 2000 for skateboarding.
At that time, using a scooter to ride ramps wasn't as popular as it is today. Through the late 1990s, when city officials engaged San Clemente's skateboard community to help design and raise funds for Ralphs Skate Court, scooters weren't even on the radar.
The sport of riding scooters was still developing, a city staff report said this week, but in the past four years it has grown so popular that scooters are a common sight at Ralphs Skate Court, though the city doesn't officially allow them there.
The posted rules state that only skateboards and in-line skates are allowed. But enforcement against scooters is sporadic, officials said.
"As soon as the cops shoo them away, they're just going to come right back," said Paul Jansen, a San Clemente father who visits the facility with his scooter-riding son. He sees skateboarding and scooter riding as similar.
In 2007, BMX bike riders asked the city to legalize the bikes at Ralphs Skate Court, but the city, after consulting with its insurance carrier, said no. This week, several scooter riders and their parents made a similar request to the city's Beaches, Parks & Recreation Commission. Commissioners took no action, as city staff plans to research the question further, including liability.
City staff pointed out that Laguna Niguel, Lake Forest, Rancho Santa Margarita and Costa Mesa ban scooters at their skate parks.
Would legalizing scooters at Ralphs Skate Court turn it into a South County scooter magnet? Tracey Irish, a scooter mom who attended Tuesday night's commission meeting, doesn't think so. "People are riding all the other parks anyway," she said.
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A visit Wednesday afternoon to Ralphs Skate Court found skaters and scooters performing tricks with no apparent conflicts on the uncrowded ramps. Irish's son Silas, a skilled scooter, said that on crowded days, scooter riders sometimes get derisive comments from skaters.
"It's a new sport and it's becoming too mainstream, so every little kid that sees it (comes) to the skate park and they like it," said Omar Aguilar, a skilled scooter. "I'm OK with that, but they don't know how to ride their scooter as well, and some get in the way and the skaters get mad. There are some skaters who like scooters. I'm friends with everybody. There's some skaters who we're really chill with."
Josh Giddings, a skater who frequents Ralphs Skate Court, said it can be dangerous to skate among scooters. "They're sketchy," he said. "They go in mass numbers. They make the park insanely crowded. There's just so many of them because they're so easy to ride."
Dave Hickey, a San Clemente father of three scooter riders, said he believes the groups can coexist. "I think the rules kind of make a division ... skateboards vs. scooters," he said. "(Without the rule), it wouldn't be one's turf vs. another's turf. We just came from Palm Springs. There were scooters everywhere."
Tracey Irish questioned whether a rider swinging his scooter around poses a danger to others on the court or whether scooters are safer because there's more control – a handle – vs. skateboards, which can fly off in all directions. She also asked whether the city might build an additional skate court or designate hours for scooters to avoid conflicts.
City staff announced plans to ask the skateboard community via email and Facebook about joint use by scooters and skaters. Staff will provide more information for the commission, possibly by the commission's next meeting May 8.
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