“Something really needs to be done to control the skateboarders”


“Dear PoPville,

Something really needs to be done to control the skateboarders that on a regular basis use the fountains at Meridian Hill park as a skateboarding ramp. Not only is this a safety issue for skateboarders and others, but the skateboards are also damaging the concrete surface of the fountains. The park is there to be enjoyed by everyone in the way that it was intended to be used. It is not a skateboard park. Let’s stop ruining our park through acts like this and vandalism.”

78 Comment

  • Well, that would require law enforcement to do their job.

  • “Skateboarding is not a crime.” πŸ™‚

    • jburka

      As I’ve always said, “Skateboarding is not a crime — but destruction of property is.”

    • Scrawl that under the “No Skateboarding” signs, why don’t you? Maybe you can have it inserted into the DC Regs and US Code where the specifically forbid that kind of destruction.

      • jburka

        Uh, that was already my point. I’m all for kids skating around town as long as they’re not destructive. And the bs cries of “skateboarding is not a crime” is simply a red herring.


        • HaileUnlikely

          Driving a car on a road causes wear on the road. Should we ban driving cars on roads? Discuss.

          • Seriously?

            Roads exist for the sole purpose of being driven on by cars, and they are built with the knowledge that they will need to be repaired and replaced every so often.

            Fountains and other decorative masonry is built no expectation of traffic, skateboard or otherwise, with an expected useful life of hundreds of years provided no one uses them for an unintended purpose.

            I have a hard time believing you actually don’t see a difference here.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I see the difference, but I disagree regarding its importance. Concrete is strong stuff, and most people weigh considerably less than one-tenth as much as cars. I am not saying that skateboarding literally never causes damage to concrete, but typically it does not. Labelling the mere act of skateboarding on a fountain “destruction of property” is patently nonsensical.

  • I’m not sure how much/what damage can be attributed to skateboarders, but Meridian Hill park could use some work in general. The James Buchanan memorial is in terrible condition, as are some of the fountains, steps, and sidewalks. The park is an incredible neighborhood gem, but I think it’s due for an overhaul (as are many of DC’s other parks).

    • It underwent a ton of work for a few years from 2008/09 to about 2014 (for example the bathrooms, and a lot of trees that were planted on the 16th st side). Alas, the park’s popularity and usage has also shot up enormously too in recent years. I think the park’s maintenance budget needs to be adjusted upward to handle the increased park usage.

  • yea building more legit skate spots is definitely not an option

  • Disagree. All kinds of activities cause damage– soccer and dogs kill the grass, slacklining and hammocks damage trees, drum circle leaves litter all over… Anyway, the natural freeze/ thaw effects cause as much damage as skateboarders, and requires the same kind of repair.
    The call to action here needs to be better maintenance of our parks. And I’ll get on board with that.

  • And if that ball comes over your fence one more time you’re keeping it?

  • I’d recommend shaking your fist harder.

  • General Grant Circle

    “Those darn kids! Get off my lawn!”
    Gee of all the issues… id rather the kids be out doing a little boarding than ganging up on people on the metro!

    • Yeah, I’ve got to agree with the general. We have so many issues with youth crime in this city that if the kids want to spend their time skateboarding, even if it causes some damage, I’d much rather have them do that.

      • Absolutely. I’d much rather see 10 years of the occasional crack in cement and slow accumulation of ground corners than 10 years of stabbings, assault, and street harassment. I’d rather police enforce laws against violence than non-enforceable rules against skateboarding-but-only-the-kind-that-eventually-might-cause-cracks-or-something.

    • +1000000…. attention should be on the kids in the city causing trouble, not enjoying a pastime that harms no person

  • i’m not going to be against all skateboarders because they don’t ALL do tricks on the stonework, but the ones that do cause way more damage to the physical structures in the park than soccer and dogs and drum circles do, and it’s a lot harder and more costly to fix than dead grass and litter, so i think that is definitely a more serious issue. unfortunately, i don’t know what could be done to keep them off the fountains and walls other than installing little barriers. National City Christian Church on Thomas circle did this and it seems relatively effective.

    • I think perhaps building an actual skate park would be a start… but heaven forbid we *encourage* them to skateboard. Something tells me OP may not appreciate part of the park being designated to a skating area.

      • There already is a skatepark in Shaw.

      • You mean, like the skate park at 11th and Rhode Island Ave NW 1.0 miles southeast of Meridian Hill?

      • Isn’t there an “actual skate park” in Shaw? (Or was that being torn down to make room for a Mystics practice facility or something?)

      • off the top of my head there are at least 2 public skateparks in DC. That’s a hell of a lot more than back in the day where Freedom plaza was the spot (when not being chased away by cops).

      • Clearly I’m an idiot since I didn’t know there was one a mile away. (Although, in defense of the people who may be skateboarding at this park, is it reasonable to expect kids who are presumably coming from Mt. P/Columbia Heights/possibly U St. to walk over to Shaw? I’m not answering that question. Clearly there is either higher demand that the Shaw skate park can handle… or it was poorly located.)

        • Also in my defense, see rob’s comment above. How come I’m the only one who gets slack for making a proposal, guys? πŸ™

        • While I’m not against kids skateboarding wherever, I just want to point out that these kids don’t have to walk over to the skatepark in Shaw. They can ride their skateboards.

  • You are insane. Sometimes people just make no sense to me. So your enjoyment of a public space is more valuable than someone else’s? Who do you think you are to regulate other people? You’re uptight. That much I can tell. A safe guess is that you’re not from DC. You don’t remember when Malcolm X was too dangerous to be in. And the skateboarders were there. No one complained about them then. Now you come along and want to tell other people what to do. I like watching skateboarders. So leave me alone to do what I like.

  • EckingtonDoodle

    Nice URL πŸ™‚

  • As an engineer, I see absolutely no evidence that skateboarding caused the damage shown in the picture. Is that a stock photo or one actually connected to the complaint? Looks to me like a possible low spot in the fountain that cracked due to freeze/thaw cycles as said above. The only damage I could see caused by boarders is around the edges where they grind, but you didn’t show us that. No way polyurethane wheels are hurting that concrete in the middle.

    • Agreed – I think what we have here is someone upset and attributing all disrepair of public lands to “those darned skateboarders.”

    • As a skater, I wanted to substantiate DRC’s argument. I will readily admit that skateboarders can damage property. But skateboarding simply doesn’t cause substantive damage to flat concrete surfaces. The only place you might reasonably expect to see skateboard related damage is on the edges of the lowest two terraces. But I see no structural damage. The edges show slight discoloration, but discoloration compared to what? Caked on green algae stains?

    • Thank you DRC! The damage evident in that photo is clearly not from skateboarders and it is ignorant to place blame where it is not due. In addition, skateboarders are an integral element to city cultures just like the drum circle, and those choosing other recreational activities. Why would anyone want to take away from the urban cultural element of diversity that make cities a melting pot of diversity? Clearly those who oppose skateboarding in public spaces such as Meridian Hill have a prejudice against skateboarders. What about all of the broken alcohol bottles and condom wrappers that are littered all over the park? That is clearly more endangering to those who share the space. We should welcome and encourage people to participate in activities that they identify with and not deter them. If they are not harming others and the only damage they are causing is to themselves or the rounding edge of an old fountain then leave them be. If anything the skateboarders have made that park and other areas like it safer places for everyone.

  • “The park is there to be enjoyed by everyone…” Except Skateboarders!!

  • So why is your enjoyment of the park more valuable than someone else’s? Why do you get to tell people how to enjoy the park? You weren’t around when that park was too dangerous to be in. The skateboarders were there. No one complained then. Now you come and you think you should dictate what others do. I like seeing the skateboarders. I like to enjoy my time in the park by watching them. So leave me alone and let me enjoy the park how I please.

  • I really enjoyed seeing the skateboarders use the fountain as a ramp….saw them last winter doing this and might have been one of the cooler things I have seen in all of DC. Good for them for being creative. As long as they aren’t intentionally vandalizing the park, I’m ok with it as a DC taxpayer. And I’m sure not all the damange is due to them…

  • When is this town going to finally ban dancing and rock music??

  • I’m sure the park service owes you big time for keeping track of their structural shortcomings. thanks for going above and beyond to take a metaphorical dump on someone else’s good time.
    This city, man…

  • Not many years ago, the NPS carried out a very expensive renovation of this park. The damage from grinding a skateboard along the edges of steps, walls, and fountains is plain for anyone to see. Is it really fair to impose on taxpayers the heavy cost burden of renovating such structures everywhere, prematurely, so skateboarders can use them this way? Especially when there are skate parks in the area?

    • I’m fine with that.
      Where’s the call to restrict all the pooches to their own parks? There are dog parks in the area. Dogs (unlike skateboarders) actually decrease my enjoyment of the park. I can’t sit on the grass and lean up against a tree because it’s been peed on. I can’t let my kids get too far from me because an unleashed dog will probably jump on them and cause a meltdown. I can’t have a game of catch because a dog will steal my ball (yes, that has happened). Skateboarders, on the other hand, pretty much keep to their own areas. Any damage they cause is to big blocks of stone. It’s pretty sturdy, and the ground-down corners or whatever can’t possibly affect the way other people use the park.
      (TBC: I’m not advocating a dog ban in Meridian Hill Park. I’m advocating a live and let live attitude, and a better budget for park maintenance.)

      • This is not judging versus live-and-let-live. It’s about premature destruction of costly infrastructure. If dogs typically caused the kind of permanent damage to architecture that results from the grinding of skateboards on hard edges, then they would not be permitted in the park. If you think this damage “can’t possibly affect the way others use the park,” then you’re just wrong. Park architecture might be be mere “big blocks of stone” to you, but I think most people recognize aesthetic design and appreciate its maintenance in good order. This park happens to be one of the first places in which pebble aggregate was used for balustrades and other architectural purposes. That’s one of the reasons the NPS renovation of the park was very expensive.

        • Meh. I don’t have a lot of use for look-but-don’t-touch public spaces. Freeze/ thaw cycles cause damage too. It should be repaired, regularly. If it’s not being repaired, take it up with your elected representatives, not with the kids whose outlets are already pretty limited. I’ll sign that petition.
          But more than the monetary cost of fixing stuff that kids break, I’m concerned about the societal cost of telling kids “you don’t belong here; this is ours, not yours. We decide what’s allowed and what’s not. What’s allowed is what WE like, not what YOU like.” Graffiti and such is one thing; that’s destruction for the sake of destruction. Skateboarding is an activity that requires dedication to master, and if causes some little wear and tear on the parks, so be it. Park maintenance is cheap compared to other interventions for bored youth.

          • Nice that you mention graffiti. Some people make all the same arguments for tolerating it that you’ve made for tolerating skateboarding on public park architecture: it keeps kids away from worse activities, it requires dedication to master, and it is worth the property damage involved.

          • And it’s not exactly cheap. When this same park was renovated just 8 years ago, it cost $6.2 million and took 5 years.

            Anyway, if you want to exempt skateboarding from the laws against damaging public property, then you should take it up with YOUR elected representative.

          • Oh don’t worry, OP doesn’t actually want to take action like starting a petition or even working with park officials on alternatives or solutions. S/he just wants to rant that “something” needs to be done, then watch everyone argue on this site. This type of sh!t-stirring has gotten So. Old.

          • Maybe the OP wants to know how to get the Park Police to enforce the existing prohibition against skateboarding? (I’m assuming the park has signs saying “No Skateboarding.”)

  • DCReggae

    As a skater myself, I really enjoyed the comments to this post. Whenever a city attempts to control skateboarding in the way of “youre not welcome here, go somewhere else.” skaters ALWAYS win. LOVE Park in Philly, Venice Beach, NYC Brooklyn Banks, the list goes on and on. I understand we mark up surfaces, but trust me when I tell you, you WANT these kids to be putting their energy towards skating and not elsewhere like theft, assault, and violent crimes. Skaters are high energy, artistic, athletic kids and skateboarding a very healthy outlet for them.

    • I also feel like this Ramp is somewhat famous at this point…last year I saw guys from Pryamid Skateboard team filming in this spot (I think, apparently they slapped a sticker somewhere in the park a friend found) but the fountain is only drained a few months out of the year, let them tear it up…its covered in water anyways scuff marks do not matter when the water turns green. Would be cool if they could add in some rails or something specifically in the lower part of the park. It would be fun to watch.

      Signed the inner middle school skater in me.

      • The subjecting of preserving park architecture from skateboard damage seems to bring out the inner middle schooler in a lot of people.

      • The subject of preserving park architecture from skateboard damage seems to bring out the inner middle schooler in a lot of people.

        • DCReggae

          You’re sort of onto something. I still skate (and I’m 30). Feeling youthful is something I’m not opposed to holding onto for as long as possible. I’m all about preservation but that won’t change what’s going on there, Easy.

    • Kids can skate without marking up surfaces. Why can’t they use the skate parks the city built for them?

      • DCReggae

        What’s known as grinding (or marking up surfaces) is a major part of skating. There’s only one park I know of and it’s always crowded. Street skating will never replace park skating – it’s hard to describe. It kinda stifles creativity which is a huge part of the sport.

      • That is the same as telling runners they can only run on a track. Part of the enjoyment and motivation is the exploration and variation.

  • SK8 OR DIE!!!

  • I lived a block away in 1995 and remember the widespread physical damage, including the telltale worn and crumbled edges from skateboards. It looked so very sad. In 2003, the NPS began a 5-year, $6.2 million renovation. The painstaking work restored the edges of the fountains, steps and balustrades, reviving the Italianate design. The use of pebble aggregate was pioneered in this park. The material is fragile and incapable of enduring the wear of skateboards. I wish skateboarders well but hope they will give this old park a break.


    • Easy, as a long time resident I completely understand your frustration at the sad state of our parks, specifically the ones administered by the National Park Service. People using the parks, even if in creative ways (skateboarding, makeshift soccer fields) can cause damage. The problem is NPS not having the funding necessary for proper maintenance.

      Now as a skateboarder, you completely misunderstand skateboarding. Skateboarders don’t damage “pebble aggregate” because you can’t skate on it. Think about it. Would you want to ride small hard wheels over “pebble aggregate”? The skateboarders usually walk their boards over to skate in the empty fountain. The only damage skateboarding does to the fountain is leave wax residue on the edge of the lower bowl, which is washed way by the fountain each year. Sure there’s maybe a few chips or rounding here and there, but I would put money on it that you don’t notice that when it’s covered by water and the lush plants that grow next to the fountain in the summer. Do you think the fountain is supposed to look great without water?

      As for the skatepark argument, they are extremely well used despite their poor design, cheap materials, and small size. Show me another park in the city that’s as well used ALL YEAR as the pathetic Shaw skatepark. Dog parks might be the only competition…and the one next to the Shaw skatepark has water for the dogs. Skaters, who in this city are largely young African Americans or Latinos, don’t get that luxury. I could go on…

  • Slightly unrelated but…
    There’s a lot of discussion of this park being in disrepair. Would folks be interested in supporting a campaign to improve / better maintain this park? NPS’ resources are incredibly limited; they haven’t seen budget increases in accordance with the increase in public lands they manage in decades, so they’re constantly being asked to do more with less. I’m not trying to make excuses, but it is reality that Congressional budgeting leaves a lot to be desired.

  • You’re clearly not supposed to be in the fountains, so just stay out of them. Skateboarding or not.

  • No mentioned the fact that people show up with bottle of wine and beer then drink all day during the warm days. It’s clearly posted and illegal for the park and also because it is public space. The people that tie ropes around the trees and try to balance or set up beds are also in the wrong. People have been told and see others being destructive but choose to not say anything. Hipster double standard is crazy. Ok to drink in a park but not ok for someone to drink in front of your building and have the police solve your issues.

  • As someone who skated in that park throughout the 90’s and now is a tax paying grown up, I’d rather have the minimal wear and tear of people using the park than criminalizing a sport and its practitioners. During the warm months when the park sees the most visitors the fountains are flowing and no one skateboards there. It’s only in the winter when most people aren’t usually in the lower half of the park. And of course that photo is not of damage done by skateboarding… Not helpful. Honestly anything that gets kids to excercise and get off the internet is worth a zillion times the repairs that the park will eventually need, that’s one of the reasons we build parks as a society is for recreation and enjoyment, outdoors.

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