Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comments from Morgan Rodgers, the director of recreation, parks and cultural services for the city of Alpharetta.
Alpharetta City Council members and Mayor Jim Gilvin passed an ordinance in a 4-3 vote at the June 15 council meeting—with Gilvin and council members Dan Merkel and John Hipes voting in opposition—to ban the use of skateboards and longboards in most of the downtown area in what is being called the Skateboard Restriction Zone. Previously, the ordinance's first draft also included inline skates and roller skates in the list of banned devices, but those have since been removed from the ordinance.
The ordinance came about initially because of complaints from residents who live in City Center about property damage, excessive noise and near-collisions between skateboarders and pedestrians as well as between skateboarders and vehicles.
The Skateboard Restriction Zone covers most of the area between Haynes Bridge Road extending west past Canton and Roswell streets on the east and west sides, and stretching to Marietta and Church streets to the south and north. In the restricted zone—which has been decreased in size since the ordinance's first reading June 1—skateboarding and longboarding are prohibited on public sidewalks, parking decks and surface parking lots as well as elevated surfaces such as rails, ramps and steps, according to the ordinance.
Individuals age 17 and older who violate the ordinance can be fined up to $500 and receive up to 20 hours of community service. Parents or guardians of a violator under the age of 17 will be subject to the penalty; however, children age 12 and younger can use a skateboard or longboard within the restricted zone if under direct supervision from a parent, guardian or other adult.
“This has not been an easy issue to deal with, but we have really tried to listen to all of our citizens and focus on the safety concerns,” said Mayor Pro Tem Donald Mitchell, a sponsor of the ordinance, during the meeting.
Skateboarders spoke during the public comment period of the first reading of the ordinance June 1, citing a lack of skate park as part of the reason why there is high skateboarding activity in the downtown area.
"There are so many skateboarders in this area because, for one, it's basically a skate park. Within 100 feet of where I'm standing, there's several stair sets, smooth concrete ledges, rails, curbs, everything you need in a skate park. Whereas, to go to an actual skate park, the nearest one is 30 minutes away up in Fowler Park in Forsyth County," said Ethan Palmer, an Alpharetta teenage resident and skateboarder, during the June 1 meeting.
DJ Snyder, a former longtime Alpharetta resident and skateboarder, started an online petition in late May to raise awareness on the lack of a skate park in Alpharetta, with the goal of constructing one at Wills Park. In the last month, about 800 people have signed the petition as of publication June 19.
"I grew up in Alpharetta skateboarding the streets and for over a decade, we have tried getting a skatepark in and nothing has ever happened," Snyder said. "We believe it is the best time to entertain this idea as Alpharetta is poised for future growth."
Morgan Rodgers, director of recreation, parks and cultural services for the city of Alpharetta, and Merkel are working with Snyder and other local skaters on a temporary solution to this problem: a pop-up skate park within Union Hill Park, which is expected to be ready by mid-July.
"It was really the expressed need from the skaters that prompted us to do this," Rodgers said in a June 24 interview. "There hasn't been a combined effort [between skaters and the city] for a skate park in the past, and we are trying to remedy that."
Merkel said June 18 that Rodgers and his staff are using leftover funds from a prior project to fix up the roller hockey rinks at Union Hill Park and turn them into a pop-up, temporary skate park to gauge demand for a permanent, dedicated skate park. Rodgers said they are in the process of constructing a ramp, box and rail for the pop-up skate park for a total of less than $5,000.
"This is definitely a great start, but we believe this would only be a temporary solution as something like Wills Park is closer to downtown Alpharetta. However, it gives local skateboarders the opportunity to prove that there is demand [for a skate park]," Snyder said.
Snyder said once the pop-up skate park is ready, local skateboarders are planning to host a Skate Day event there to further show demand for a permanent park, tentatively scheduled for the end of July.