The City of Alpharetta has banned skateboarding downtown. And for those who care about their community, the city will now be persecuting middle- and high school-aged kids (the most vulnerable demographic) for making the honorable decision to turn off their devices and engage with the world that surrounds them, or otherwise punishing the parents who allow their children that precious opportunity.
Youth who do not want to participate in competitive, capital-molding activities have few avenues left to them in Alpharetta. Thankfully, skateboarding is an activity that can foster the individualism and active expression of tomorrow’s ideal citizen. And more, it can be done anywhere, not just at skateparks.
Skateboarders are too often subjected to city solutions that corral them into facilities where they are isolated from the rest of their community. Even if this promised “pop-up skatepark” at Union Hill were an equal exchange for downtown, it is not the solution to the “skateboarding problem.” The solution is empathy. Build them their skatepark, give them the safe space they deserve, but do not banish them from their own streets. Instead, work to build bridges of understanding between skateboarders and the rest of the community. They are outside coming to know the fulfillment of overcoming obstacles, and learning that, in the real world, there are no helmets or kneepads.
It is saddening to see free-spirited youth being pushed out by the craft breweries, nightclubs and overpriced boutiques that now line downtown’s historic streets. But it can still be the vibrant, down-to-earth southern home that the city website advertises; it can be an epicenter of community harmony that nurtures the growing minds of tomorrow.
So do not discount young skateboarders for their negative, undeserved reputation. Instead of calling the police, have a conversation with them. You will gain from it, they will gain from it, and the community will be strengthened by it. They are confronting the danger and uncertainty that exists in this world and courageously stepping forth to triumph over it. Why not be the one to lend them a hand when they fall?
Logan Knapp, Cumming, formerly of Alpharetta