After at least 20 years of constant skateboard activity on and around the CSU campus, why are the riders (now numbered in the thousands) not fully accepted as part of the campus community? It would be fun and easy to deconstruct the pedestrian editorial and article regarding skateboarding that appeared in the Collegian on Sept. 18. However, such jabs would likely bruise egos and do little to address the actual "problem" involving skateboarding on campus.
Let's start by reframing the issue slightly so we can move away from labeling skateboarders as deviants who destroy state property. My friends and I have been riding the campus since the tenth grade (1990), when we would travel all the way from Wyoming to ride this concrete wonderland. In fact, others have been riding here at least a decade before that. Despite a sustained presence in Fort Collins and CSU, law enforcement attitudes have remained conservative, with skaters generally treated as juvenile ne'er-do-wells who must be taught a lesson.
Issues central to the conflict are location and times. The public skate parks in Fort Collins do not have lights and are located in the far North, East and South sectors of the city, with another planned for the West. As a result, skateboarders have gravitated to the path of least resistance: CSU and Old Town, which consist of two vast, centrally located, well-lit concrete skate parks. For younger people who often don't have cars or money for gasoline, these spots provide an ideal location to skate despite the possibility of sanctions.
In addition, officials send mixed signals about doing "tricks" or "aerial maneuvers" that confound skaters, bikers, rollerbladers and law enforcement officers alike. (Is it okay to ollie up a curb if you are on your way to class? What if you're just going to buy food at the student center?) Day-to-day enforcement varies, with some riders being issued polite warnings and others being hauled away in handcuffs. Furthermore, several times per year, skateboarders are permitted to bring ramps to perform demonstrations at the student center. At various campus fairs, local skateboard shops sell their wares on the Plaza. It is unclear whom and what are welcome here, but there is an apparent strong bias against non-students.
For their part, student and non-student riders of all stripes (bikes, blades, boards) are occasionally rebellious and confrontational with law enforcement and other staff. Their disorganized and individualistic orientation has failed to produce an organized response to their de facto exclusion from campus. For example, while there is a snowboard club, there is nothing similar for skateboarders. A contrasting example sheds light on the situation. What if the CSU Police Department made continual contact with student and non-student basketball players or Frisbee golfers? The argument is that property is "destroyed," so that such comparison to "normal" activities is not valid. It would be illuminating to see actual data. I do not gamble, but would be willing to bet that the time and resources wasted on skate stoppers and law enforcement man hours far eclipses the former.
There are thousands of skaters (with varying levels of participation) who use the CSU campus. Unfortunately, they have neither club representation nor recognition from ASCSU. It is time skateboarding be recognized as a real recreational activity. Why don't we start our own club and get our own funds? Perhaps it could be called Fun Underachievement at CSU. Actually, Colorado SKATE University sounds better.
What are the goals of this organization? First, we need to build a skate park on campus with private and public funds. This will divert skateboarders from the natural street obstacles on campus. In addition, it can limit conflict between skaters, the public and the police. Notice I said, "divert," not "eliminate." Realistically, no policy enacted will ever eliminate street skating everywhere, especially at CSU – such thinking is idealistic and simply untenable. Instead, the campus should no longer treat us as deviants and ought to fully welcome us in the campus community like other recognized groups. CSU has the opportunity to be the first campus in Colorado to include skateboarding among recognized recreational activities. Such endeavors have proved successful in the California campus system among others, and deserve serious consideration.
Whether you just ride to class, street skate daily or love skate parks, this affects you. Let CSU know you are not an individual deviant and you want a quality facility on campus. (They are counting on the fact we can be easily divided and conquered . . .You are much easier to manage this way). We will be creating a list of interested members who want to create a skate park on campus that will be available for the entire community. (Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested). We have been here for decades and we are not going anywhere. . .