Skateboarding causes concern on Gibson Rd.

WEST SALEM -- A popular skateboarding site has turned out to be a newly paved county road, and administrators may ban the activity on the road to keep skaters and drivers safe.

WEST SALEM -- A popular skateboarding site has turned out to be a newly paved county road, and administrators may ban the activity on the road to keep skaters and drivers safe.

County Administrator Greg Hansen said the county and public works have received calls from residents on Gibson Road expressing safety concerns with the skateboarders who are using the smooth surface as a downhill slalom.

Hansen said participants wear leathers, gloves, pads and helmets and have lookouts to watch for cars, but the situation is just an accident waiting to happen.

"It's just a matter of time before a skateboarder is hit by a farm truck or other vehicle," Commissioner Tom Ritchey said.

On July 26, the group of skateboarders even held a race on the road that was advertised on a Web site for local riders. The flier boasted of cash prizes for the winners and said safety gear was required.

No permit was secured for the event.

Commentators on the site said they were able to reach speeds of 35 to 48 miles per hour down the hill.

Polk County Sheriff Bob Wolfe said skateboards are human powered and exempt from some traffic laws. The riders could only be charged with interfering with traffic.

The county would be legally liable for accidents if the activity is seen as condoned or allowed. An ordinance may be in the works to ban skateboarding on the road, but not other roads in the county. Salem has ordinances downtown against skateboarding as well.

"Because of a couple of people, you end up regulating everyone else," Wolfe said.

The county does not want to take rights away from children who skate to school, but there is concern that after an ordinance is passed and enforced, the riders will simply pick another county road for their activity.

An ordinance has been drafted that will stop skating on the road between Eagle Crest and Brush College. The Board of Commissioners will vote on teh matter today (Wednesday,Aug. 13) at 9 a.m.

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