Future of Silver Spring skate park in question following fights

Skateboarders at Woodside Urban
Skateboarders at Woodside Urban (Photo: TBD Staff)

Woodside Urban Park's newly designated space for skateboarding in Silver Spring has been getting plenty of use since it opened July 30. Swarms of skaters descend daily upon the concrete ramps and steel rails there, intended as a safe, legal place for skaters to roll free.

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Long story short

Silver Spring skateboarders are worried they'll once again have no place to go.

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But things aren’t going exactly as planned at the Skate Spot, a temporary facility Montgomery County added to the longtime park. A recent spate of incidents, including a serious fight, has broken the relative calm at Woodside Urban. It's caused police to increase their presence there, and has left skaters and residents feeling uneasy about safety and the future of the park.

Skaterboarders were directed to Woodside Urban Park as an alternative to skating on the ice skating rink at the newly opened Veteran’s Plaza and civic building. For weeks, skaters used the rink, but officials and some residents voiced concerns over skating in a space not intended for the sport; they worried kids could get hurt and that the newly-built plaza could be damaged from constant pounding.

Skateboarding was banned on the plaza via a mandate from County Executive Isiah Leggett’s office, and Reemberto Rodriguez, director of the Silver Spring Regional Services Center, issued this explanation, emphasizing that skaters, for the most part, are not intentionally causing harm but that “consistently and successfully regulating this activity goes well beyond the scope of what the operation of this Plaza was ever intended to be.”

Woodside Urban Park is about ½-mile away from the downtown core. The park abuts Casey Anderson’s yard, who admits, "I wasn’t really excited to have it coming, but I felt like I should support it because the kids should be accommodated somewhere."

It's unclear whether the park will be there permanently. The skate spot was designed by Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning as an interim solution while planners work on permanent changes to the park. Residents will meet in the fall to give input on the park, and a public hearing on the new plans is slated for summer 2011.

Recently though, a couple of incidents at the park have piqued the interest of law enforcement. According to Montgomery County Police and witnesses, a group of teens at the park harassed some of the skaters at about 8 p.m. on Aug. 3. Three officers responded to the scene, but no report was filed.

Three days later, on Aug. 6, a fight erupted between a basketball player and two adult skaters who were skating around the court, according to park police and witnesses. One skater smashed out the rear window of the man’s car and then hit him on the head with a skateboard. The man fought back. He wasn’t admitted to the hospital and he hasn't filed charges, but it likely adds up to a second degree assault, according to park police spokeswoman Sgt. Lauryn McNeill.

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