Downtown damage prompts ordinance upgrade

Skateboarders have been leaving their mark on downtown Baton Rouge, but some leaders are hoping an ordinance change will help put a stop to it.

The Metro Council will hold a public hearing April 9 on the proposed amendment, which will more clearly define areas where skateboarding isn’t allowed. The Downtown Development District and Department of Public Works have requested the change, noting that skateboarding and cycling have led to damaged benches, steps and rails downtown.

“I like skateboarders, but this will help us protect some of our park structures,” said Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer.

The current ordinance already prohibits skateboarding, bicycling and roller-skating downtown in some areas, but its wording is outdated, even referencing the Centroplex — the former name of the River Center. The amendment will update the language and add park structures and North Boulevard Town Square.

“We think this will help the police enforce the ordinance better,” Rhorer said.

Skateboarders have posted several videos online from downtown Baton Rouge. The decorative brick plaza structure at the downtown Chase Tower near the corner of North Fifth Street and Florida Boulevard is featured in several.

Rhorer said the Downtown Development District has ordered skate deterrents — small metal fixtures that make it hard for skateboards to grind along surfaces — to put in some areas downtown, including the transit shelter at the Galvez Plaza . Those will be installed in the near future, he said.

In 2010, the East Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission opened a 30,000-square-foot concrete skatepark at the Perkins Road Community Park for skateboarders and bicycles.

Rhorer, a BREC commissioner, said he hopes that skateboarders and cyclists can enjoy that facility, rather than skating on downtown structures.