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Rufus Woods | Is enforcement the best approach to the skateboard issue?

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In Sunday's World, reporter Michelle McNiel took a comprehensive look at how the City of Wenatchee is trying to address the issue of skateboarders downtown by stricter law enforcement measures.  

I can certainly understand the concerns of  business owners, who are trying to provide an environment conducive to shopping. It can be unnerving and even hazardous to have individuals whizzing down the sidewalks on skateboards or, for that matter, bicycles. It's tough enough for small businesses to survive these days, without these kinds of challenges.  

But it was also intriguing to read about how other communities are taking more creative approaches to solve similar problems. Tacoma has lifted its ban and is providing corridors for these folks to safely navigate through congested areas to accommodate young people who use their skateboards for transportation. In addition, skateboard advocates and city officials are working together to create safe and entertaining places for these young people to recreate by building skate parks.   

Tacoma has evolved beyond the notion that skateboarders as a whole are a blight on society. They found an opportunity to build community.  

This seems to be a more enlightened approach than just increasing enforcement to address the issue. Perhaps common ground could be discovered if the city took the time to sit down and discuss the issues with those who are affected. Getting the right people in the room and spending the time learning about each other's issues and concerns in an open dialogue could yield some creative approaches that may not otherwise be considered.  

City officials say this is a new era and that they want to engage with the public and not just hand down decisions from on high. Perhaps this situation presents an opportunity to put that approach into practice.

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