Residents are colliding over - - - e park proposed for Center Park west of the City Center.
Those who've lobbied city officials for a skateboard and in-line skate facility want the design process expedited, saying such a park is long overdue because the sports are basically banned everywhere else in the city.Opponents are worried about putting such "an attractive nuisance" in the middle of the City Center Park now largely used by senior citizens and families. They say a skate park will attract a troublesome element and create hazards for pedestrians and homeowners in the area.
"I'm just a mom who has a son who enjoys skating," said Lakshmi Johal-Dominguez, one of 90 residents who showed up recently in the city recreation director's office asking for a park. "He needs a place he can go. I've become an advocate for this."
Johal-Dominguez says her son, Gabriel, has been stopped by police for skating when he was doing nothing illegal. So have her neighbors' teenagers, none of whom have had any other problems with the law.
She believes the image circulated of hoodlum skaters is wrong and harmful.
"I know where my kids are at all times. I believe my job is to raise happy kids. We're here to raise good citizens," she said. "I don't want them breaking any laws."
But without an approved outdoor rink for in-line skating, kids who enjoy the sport are left to forage for space, she said. A few businesses allow skaters in their parking areas, but most do not.
Skaters are generally banned from public areas and discouraged from cruising the sidewalks.
Some cities - Ogden, Farmington and Park City among them - are responding by taking steps toward providing skate parks, rather than outlawing the activities. Johal-Dominguez hopes Orem will join them.
To help, she's brought in video footage and proposals from cities and companies around the country that explain the skating revolution and offer options.
"When we travel, we go to every skate park in the country. My husband took up long-distance in-line skating. We started bonding as parents because our kids were into skating and we became convinced they needed some support."
Gabriel is a good student and involved in drama and a variety of sports in addition to in-line skating ski boarding, snow boarding and street hockey. He participated in the Winter Extreme games in Denver last year.
His sister, who's also a good in-line skater, has just been accepted into Princeton University.
"All of the kids involved in this aren't bad kids," said their mother. "And the parks don't have to be ugly. They can be very attractive and safe."
Mike Taylor, a citizen advocate who pushed for a pedestrian right-of-way protection bill in the state Legislature last year, says he has no problem with a skate park - if it's built in the right place. City Center Park is an inappropriate location, he said.
"It's not because of drugs and gangs (that I oppose this)," he said. "The senior citizens have a legitimate worry. They feel betrayed. I believe the kids deserve a place to be, but why endanger people? Why not put it somewhere where it'll cause less problem?"
Taylor thinks the park could better go in the new Springwater Park area recreational complex southwest of town. Kids wouldn't have the same central access as they would to City Center Park, but Taylor believes they could still easily get there on the bus.
"Or make it part of the recreation center," he suggested.
Taylor helped gather 200 signatures on a petition initiated by resident Anne Worsham and presented recently to the Orem City Council.
The petition officially protested building the skate park in the area by their neighborhood.
Jerry Ortiz, director of recreation for Orem, said skaters are literally run off of private as well as public facilities and "quite literally do not have a place to skate. I feel confident that if they have a place to skate, the nuisance that they create by skating in store fronts, building entrances, parking lots, park pavilions, etc. will be greatly reduced."
He's proposed the city set up an ad hoc committee to evaluate where, how, when and whether to pursue a skate park for Orem.
The City Council has set aside $60,000 in community development block grant funds to help pay for such a facility.