Grand Coulee Citizens debate skateboard ordinance
- *** Grand Coulee Citizens debate skateboard ordinance ***
Grand Coulee, Washington -- 11/21/2003
~Area citizens discuss the skateboard law with the Coulee Dam Council.~
Several skateboarding kids and several parents talked with
Coulee Dam town officials last week about a controversial
ban on skateboards.
Twelve people, including six young skateboarders, attended the
Coulee Dam Town Council meeting Wednesday for about an
hour to talk about an ordinance that bans skateboards, bicycles,
roller skates and scooters from any alley, street, sidewalk, park
or publicly owned parking lots in the central business district of town.
They also asked why bicycles have been banned, what should
be the role of the kids and their parents, why the town is taking
its stance and other questions.
The new input prompted the town council to delay passage
of the ordinance until at least the next council meeting on Dec. 10.
Harvest Foods owner Ray Duclos first suggested a ban about
two months ago as a safety measure, when he said a skateboarder
nearly ran into a customer.
The ordinance was passed at the Oct. 8 town council meeting.
Since then, the town council has attempted to pass a changed
Those changes are necessary due to the several errors in the
ordinance's wording and Councilmember David Schmidt's
opposition to its ambiguity.
Much of the confusion comes from the wording of the ordinance,
several audience members said. Lake Roosevelt High School
student Johnny Berg said skateboarders are unsure of where
they are supposed to skate and want clarification of the law.
Most towns that use their central business district as borders
are three times bigger than Coulee Dam, said LRHS student
Sam Halvorson. He contended "central business district"
could include 75 percent of the town.
Mayor Quincy Snow said the ordinance could be re-written
so that it bans self-propelled vehicles only on Sixth Street
behind the Melody Restaurant and the sidewalk in front of
the Bank of America and Harvest Foods.
Those are considered the areas where
most of the unsafe actions are taken.
Snow also suggested the town could put up signs in other
areas that say skateboards can't be ridden in a negligent manner.
"It's better than banning it all together,"
said LRHS student Jared Avey.
Council Member Bonnie Femling recommended that people
in the audience, for the Dec. 10 meeting, should get together
and write what they want see in the ordinance.
Coulee Dam resident Carol Schoning, who wrote a letter to
The Star encouraging people to attend the meeting, took down
some names of audience members and said they would meet
before the next council meeting.
Coulee Dam resident Fay Kiser said the current law is too vague
to stand up in court. She also said she has the right to ride her
bicycle in town, because it takes less time than walking and
saves gas and does not pollute the air.
"I understood, when I earned my driver's license, that a
bicycle rider had all the responsibilities of the automobile
driver and all the privileges, too," she said.
Femling said the problem is people riding their bicycles
on the sidewalk, which Kiser said she does not do.
The kids have the right to be responsible,
Jan Avey said.
"Why is the city taking a stance?" she said.
"Where is the choice?"
She pointed to mandatory garbage carts in Coulee Dam and
to trees recently planted in Electric City as two other examples
of a town not giving people choices.
There used to be a lot to do in the town, Avey said,
but now things are being taking away and the focus
is on tourism and trees.
Basically, the town caters to tourists,
not the people who live in town year round, she said.
Avey said students have no cafeteria at the high school
and they are being turned away in the business district.
Halvorson added that he's been banned
from Harvest Foods for life.
Several council members praised the kids who attended the
meeting for being polite and not being the ones causing the problem.
The whole controversy only comes from one or two
"bad apples," said Councilmember Ben Alling.
Then why is everyone being punished for one or two people?
asked a man in the audience.
Town Attorney Mick Howe said unless everyone is covered,
the violators cannot be dealt with.
Jon Avey said he would look at other towns to see
how they raised money to build their skate parks.
Femling said it's important for parents and kids, rather
than the town, to do the fundraising or they probably
would not use the park.
When asked about using the old swimming pool in
Coulee Dam as a skateboard park, the kids in the
audience supported the idea.
The day after the meeting, Kiser commended
the council for the way they handled the meeting.
"The consensus of the group is that the council
listened to us nicely, in a cooperative manner," she said.
Kiser said they were sincere in wanting to
"work things out to the best interests of the citizens."
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