The City Of Philadelphia vs. Skateboarding At Love Park

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The City Of Philadelphia vs. Skateboarding At Love Park

The discussion of skateboarding in public spaces has been going on for a long time. A perfect case study for this is LOVE Park in Philadelphia.

Growing up skateboarding, it was always an activity that risked getting you into lots of trouble. I remember being amused getting pulled over by cops for skating down the street in my small town. They would tell us skateboards were illegal to ride downtown, even when bikes and rollerblades were not. Over the years I've seen this discussion pop up a lot, on if skateboarding should be legal in public spaces. One of the most famous cases studies for this is Philadelphia's Love Park. 

LOVE PARK STATUE PHILADELPHIA

If you don't skate, you might not be familiar with Love Park. But most people will recognize Robert Indiana's iconic Love statue that has overlooked the park since 1976. The space was originally designed in the 1960s by Edmund Bacon (father of actor Kevin Bacon) as a public park. Years later in the '70s and '80s, the space became very run down and was mostly frequented by drug dealers or homeless people. Not long after it was slowly adopted by skateboarders because it was loaded with tons of amazing architecture to skate. The energy brought in by the skaters slowly pushed out a lot of the sketchy people. Although tons of skateboarders might not make a spot everyone wants to eat lunch, at least it was no longer a spot people felt unsafe to walk by.

Stevie Williams Sw Fs Noseslide Love Park Blabac                                            Stevie Williams Switch Front Nose At Love - Photo: Mike Blabac

The park eventually became a staple for skateboarding in the city and an iconic space for skateboarding worldwide. Many big pros build their careers and images off Love Park, and some of the most notable skate videos ever were filmed there. As it gained popularity, skateboard tourism became a thing, with people traveling from all over the world to skate at Love. The city became increasingly hostile to skateboarding in the park. 

Over the years the city of Philadelphia bounced back and forth between legalizing skateboarding at Love or patrolling it heavily with police. DC shoes at one point offered to pay $1 million dollars (over 10 years) to upkeep the park and make it a legal space to skate, but the city turned it down without ever giving a reason. At one point the X-Games were even hosted at LOVE, bringing in a nice boost of cash to Philadelphia, but after the camera crews left, it was immediately illegal to skate again. 

Josh Kalis NoseBlunt LOVE Park by Blabac Photo
Josh Kalis Noseblunt From A DC Ad - photo: Mike Blabac 
 
Designer Edmund Bacon has spoken out many times over the years supporting skateboarding in the park. He was always a fan of people using the public spaces he designed. He was also a big advocate of skateboarders adopting the park because it got people out in a community using public spaces and being active. 

In 2002, Bacon was 92 years old and decided to skate across his beloved Love Park in an act of defiance against the city for criminalizing skateboarding in the park. See Below


Video of Edmund Bacon Skating LOVE Park by Andrew Norton

“After decrying the drugs and crime of our young people, it then adopted legislation forbidding the one harmless thing that young people had developed strictly on their own, the wonderful national network of skateboarding focusing on LOVE Park." -Edmund Bacon

Love Park 2018
Love Park, 2018

In 2018 the city redesigned the park to a boring concrete oval (seen above), ending the legacy of skateboarding at LOVE. The new park is painfully bland and void of people. A citizen on the Philly Voice described the park as "an enormous sidewalk" saying that she gets "a case of the Mondays walking through it". But the city won the battle, there will be no more skateboarding in Love Park.

Edmund Bacon The Father Of Philadelphia
The Father of Modern Philadelphia by Gaia. Photo by Steve Weinik.

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