Melbourne council destroys Australia's best skate spot for 'little bogans'
February 29, 2016
Article taken form The Age newspaper
Long before he beat Tony Hawk to become World Skateboarding Champion in 1996, Melbourne's Tas Pappas says he was just a "little bogan running around" in local skate spots like the popular Lincoln Square in Carlton.
These days, the retired vertical champ skates regularly at the square on Swanston Street with his six-year-old son Billy and whatever mates show up. But not for long.
The low kerbs and long ledges that have seen the square rated Australia's best skate spot are about to be destroyed.
Skateboarder Tas Pappas is disgusted the council is destroying an iconic spot that skateboarders from around the world have enjoyed.
Melbourne City Council plans to spend $300,000 to resurface it to make it unsuitable for skateboarders, with works to start in April.
A council spokeswoman said a law making skateboarding illegal in the square was passed in 2009, but officers had found it unworkable to enforce because of the site's popularity.
"Large groups of people regularly congregate in the square – sometimes up to 50 people – and complaints are regularly received about noise, skating at unreasonable hours of the night, anti-social behaviour, pedestrian safety, and skating on the Bali bombing memorial," she said.
Residents were constantly complaining and council had tried to resolve issues, including holding meetings with police and Skateboard Australia, she said.
Mr Pappas said it was "disgusting" for council to spend so much money destroying an spot that skateboarders from around the world had enjoyed.
"It's just a bunch of crap mate," he said. "It's just a fussy bunch of killjoys living in apartments. Let the kids have some fun!"
He said those who died in the Bali bombings, and who are honoured by the memorial were mostly young people who would want others to enjoy themselves there.
"I truly think they would be happy for skateboarders to be there, because it's not like they [were] old fussy types. It's a happy spot and I don't think that's disrespectful to the memorial."
A petition on Change.org to 'Save Lincoln" has attracted hundreds of signatures since being posted on Thursday.
Mr Pappas compared the campaign to an English protest in 2014 against the redevelopment of Southbank Undercroft in London into shops, which he also supported.
"That was another spot that wasn't actually meant for skateboarding but worked perfectly for skateboarding and they've saved it for the kids," he said.
In Melbourne, local resident of 16 years, Professor Roz Hansen, said while she thought skateboarding was a terrific sport, skateboarders had taken over the park, making it unbearable for others to use.
"This is my local park but I can't go and sit in it because of the overwhelming noise," Professor Hansen said. "Men in large numbers skate all over that space doing tricks and it's quite intimidating. I can't walk my dog because it gets quite rattled. It's the Bali memorial for heaven's sake!"
She said the skaters used screwdrivers to remove "no skating signs" and metal brackets meant to stop them skating on retaining walls.
"That's just vandalism! They'll sit in the Bali memorial fountain with their shirts off and there's been drinking. They bring in milk crates with pieces of masonite as jumps."
She said the council needed to find a proper home for the sport.
The council spokeswoman said more appropriate spots would be sought for skateboarders in the city and skate parks would be included in new open spaces, like the recently completed Neill Street Reserve in Carlton.
She said a new planning framework called Skate Melbourne was being developed, with consultation to start next month.
But Mr Pappas said purpose-built skate parks often failed to be much good for street skating.
Yarra councillor Stephen Jolly, whose kids skate at the square, blasted Melbourne for marginalising young people, who he said were welcome in Yarra.
"This decision sends a message that young people are not wanted in the city," he said. "Melbourne council should be supporting skaters, not making life harder for them."