Jacksonville Skateboarders Want To Transform Vacant City Parcels

Aug 29, 2016

Jacksonville skateboarders are hoping to turn city-owned land into what they’re calling ‘DIY skate spots.’

Councilman Bill Gulliford, eight skateboarders and a real estate agent were sitting around a long conference table Monday morning at City Hall. The skaters met with Gulliford to talk about skate locations.


These meetings began because Gulliford introduced a bill in May that would have made skateboarding mostly illegal downtown.

He said the bill was in reaction to complaints about a skateboarders being reckless  in front of city hall. He said a skateboard damaged the front of the building.

RELATED HEADLINE: Jacksonville City Councilman Willing To Relax Skateboarding Regulations

Since then, he and the skaters have been working on a compromise.

“You draw more flies with honey than vinegar, right?,” said Gulliford after a meeting with skateboarders earlier this month. “So if we can get them to use other places (to skate).”

The skaters want to develop and maintain vacant city lots as mini skate parks. On Monday, city staff handed them pictures and addresses of seven possible parcels. Gulliford told the skateboarders it’s their homework to check the spots out before they meet again in a couple weeks.

“It’s a positive thing that’s happening and I think people who are enthusiastic about skateboarding are coming out and it’s turning into a positive thing from something that was going to be a ban,” said Riverside skater John Grant who was at the meeting.

They want to start with one skate spot and eventually develop more to form a skate-friendly trail downtown.

Kona Skatepark owner Martin Ramos said these projects can help develop and activate downtown. He said he envisions modern, colorful skating areas.

Ramos said fundraisers and grants should cover the cost of developing the sites, hopefully with donated materials and volunteer labor. He said companies will be more likely to sponsor them if the plan is “creative and forward thinking.”

At the same time, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department is in the conceptual stage of building a skate park on top of old tennis courts at Florida Dwight Memorial Park. It’s down the street from Lavilla School of the Arts

The city has $40,000 to use for the project, but the skaters said they’d like to try to supplement the cost of the project through grants and support from the  Cultural Council.

Ramos said that skate park could be more of a family friendly option, or what’s called a “safe spot skate spot,” which could connect to the skate trail.  

And under Florida law, the city can’t be easily sued if a skater is injured on public property designated for skating. The law states the reason for the provision is because local governments have failed to make public property available to skaters because of possible lawsuits.  

As for Gulliford’s skateboarding bill, it hasn’t gone through City Council committees yet — he’s still workshopping it — and figuring out what the bill will and won’t prohibit for downtown skaters.

“Maybe (the bill) involves a ‘no-skating zone’ close to city hall,” he said.

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Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.