Video: Teens seek changes to Port Royal Skatepark rules about bikes

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 12, 2014 

Most any time school is out, a handful of youth ranging from preschool to some sporting full beards can be found at the Port Royal Skatepark on all manner of skates and skateboards.

But what you won't find -- or at least aren't supposed to -- are bicycles. They are against the rules.

Chandler Phillips, 14, wants that to change. He says there aren't many places in town where he can ride his BMX bike and practice tricks. And the street is not a place to do that, he said.

"We went up to the park one day and one of the officers came up and told us not to do it," Chandler said. "And we knew that, but we kept doing it. ... And then one said if they caught us again, they'd take (the bike) away."

So, what's a young cyclist to do?

Chandler turned to his grandmother, Port Royal Councilwoman Mary Beth Gray-Heyward.

She told him if he wanted the park rules changed, he had to ask the whole Town Council, not just her.

"That's not how government works," she told him.

Chandler and his friend Deavyn Powers loaded their bikes in Heyward's truck Wednesday night and headed down to Town Hall for the town council meeting.

Chandler rolled his bike up to the podium during the public comment period.

"I was nervous, but I think I had everyone agreeing with me by the end, except ... Vernon(DeLoach)."

Councilman DeLoach was worried about the safety of skateboarders, even though Chandler said he and his biking friends avoid the skateboarders and try to use the park in the evening, when small children aren't there.

Designating a bike section wouldn't work well, Chandler said, but designating times when bikes are allowed might. Town manager Van Willis said council would look into the matter.

Park rules allow skateboards and skates, but not bicycles, which Willis said was intended to prevent extra damage from bike parts gouging the wooden ramps.

The free park was built in the mid-1990s, and needs repairs every few years because of general wear and tear. While vandalism problems have cropped up from time to time, it has been several years since the park had to be temporarily closed as a deterrent.

Deputy Police Chief Ron Wekenmann said safety is a real concern, likening a biker to a tractor-trailer and a skateboarder to a Volkswagen.

"You've got a child on a bike and he's going to have more mass and metal and speed and an increased risk of hurting someone," he said. He said officers are called to the park a couple of times a month on complaints about bikers.

"It's hard because our officers have to go there and say you can't have fun because it's against the rules," he said.

However, he applauded Chandler's initiative. The chief said he would support any compromise council reached.

"If they could come up with a solution that could keep everybody happy, the police department would be behind it," Wekenmann said.

Deavyn's mom, Christy, wants to encourage her son to keep riding his bike so he's outside, out of trouble and exercising. The family recently moved to Port Royal from Atlanta.

"I'm impressed they took the initiative to go to town council to make this request for all the kids in the area," she said. "They're trying to change the rules instead of breaking them."

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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