Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Gulliford introduced a bill in June that would have made skateboarding illegal in most of downtown — and skateboarders weren’t happy.
Since then, the bill’s been on hold while he meets with skateboarders in hopes of coming to a compromise. Gulliford said Tuesday he’s continued to meet with some of the skateboarders over the last nine months about a trail of mini skate parks throughout downtown and Riverside on vacant city-owned parcels of land.
“We’ve identified, I think, six or seven, eight parcels and parks and rec are looking at them,” Gulliford said.
Martin Ramos, who has been working closely with Gulliford, is the owner of Jacksonville’s Kona skatepark and said they’ve identified one area to possibly start with.
“Right now it seems the focus is mainly on the Main Street Park,” Ramos said.
The Main Street Pocket Park is located behind the Main Library downtown. On Tuesday, dozens of people were sitting along raised concrete flower beds, while a man stood in the middle reciting a sermon, but no skateboarders.
“(It would be) a skate park that doesn’t look like a skate park because it’s taking an approach that just emulates obstacles and things you would see in a natural downtown environment, but just optimizing them for skateboarding,” Ramos said.
That means modern art pieces could also be skate friendly, along with stairs and rails. He said it would fulfill a need for street skaters, who are often forgotten about in skate park design.
And he’s eyeing other parcels, including one in Riverside’s Brooklyn area that could be good for longboard skaters who want to cruise,
“It’s got some flooding issues that could be resolved by taking a flow course skateable path,” he said.
He said another downtown spot could be developed for people who want skate ramps and another could be for kids just starting out.
“The typical approach for a municipal skate park is to get an area in a budget and pack as many different elements into this one area to satisfy all the different types of skateboarding,” he said. “This breaks that apart into the separate areas.”
The idea is the skate spots would all be within a couple miles, forming a trail around downtown. He said he’s currently working with some contractors to draw up a plan for the Main Street Park.
“We may be at a point where we need to take a step back and just get a little bit of funding just for the development part,” Ramos said.
He’s hoping to be able to have a plan ready over the next couple months for future council approval. He’s wanting to convince members the skate trail will draw skating tourism and be unique to Jacksonville.
As for the bill making skating mostly illegal downtown, Gulliford said, it’s likely “going to get amended or changed or withdrawn.”
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Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at email@example.com, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.