With its long, arching curbs and sloping sidewalks, the newly remodeled Eastbank Esplanade is not only the latest gem in the city's crown of redevelopment projects, but one of the most attractive places in town for skateboarding. But according to city officials, skateboarding is not compatible with walking and jogging, and they are preparing an expensive campaign to put an end to the skaters and BMX bikers along the esplanade.

"We're concerned both about property-damage issues and safety issues," explained Mark Warrington, public safety manager for Portland Parks and Recreation. The Parks department recently signed a $31,000 contract with Portland patrol services to keep security officers on the premises--and skaters off--through June 2002. The city also plans to spend a reported $25,000 to install "skatestoppers"--macaroni-shaped bumpers--to disrupt both skateboards and BMX bikes from grinding along curbs. "The bikes and skateboards cause the concrete to chip, and wax to build up," Warrington said.

But Paul Fujita, who works at Cal Skate Skateboards downtown and has been involved with different planning committees for Portland skateboarding parks, says that the city made this decision without listening to skateboarders. "Skateboarders have always had a reputation they just don't deserve," says Fujita. "Skateboarders are not responsible for crime that goes on. Actually, the more activity that goes on there, the less likely people are going to do graffiti, or crime, or whatever. It's not like skateboarders are out robbing or mugging anyone."

Moreover, says Fujita, the money used to prevent skateboarders from hanging out at the park could have been used to build better facilities for skateboarders. According to Fujita, the single downtown skate ramp on Burnside is packed with the most skilled and exclusive skateboarders in town. "It's simply not a place to go if you want to learn," he explained.

Fujita believes that this campaign shows the city's desire to punish the skateboarders, rather than think constructively about how to help them with a better facility. "We've got 80 skateparks in Oregon, and that's still not enough. I could build a great skatepark for 30 grand," he said. "Skateboarding, as a sport, is more popular here than even baseball."