Skateboarding: the Olympic Sport that is a Public Nuisance in Minneapolis

Skateboarding is a public nuisance in Minneapolis. Legally, that is. In 1984 the city council found that “skateboard ramps or similar structures used for skateboarding” are too noisy, too busy, too ugly, too dangerous, too annoying, and make neighbors feel “insecure.”

I’m not kidding, they literally wrote those concerns into the code of ordinances and decided skate structures are a public nuisance—which means you can’t build a mini ramp in your back yard or keep a grind box in your garage. This is from the actual ordinance:

Skateboard ramps or structures prohibited.

(1) Findings. The city council finds … that skateboard ramps or other similar types of structures used for skateboarding … result in intolerable levels of noise … and … large groups of persons …; are aesthetically objectionable …; that such structures or their proliferation could depress market values …; that the use and maintenance of such structures … endangers the public health and safety, constitutes an unreasonable use and condition to the annoyance, discomfort and repose of a considerable number of the public; … is detrimental to the public good, and to the common welfare, and renders a considerable number of the public insecure in the use and enjoyment of their property, and thus constitutes a nuisance condition.

(2) Notwithstanding any other section of this Code, skateboard ramps or similar structures used for skateboarding or related purposes are prohibited in residentially zoned areas as constituting a public nuisance.

Title 12, Minneapolis Code of Ordinances § 244.1620.

As far as I can tell this ordinance was enacted in 1984, which makes sense. That is about when NIMBYs everywhere were clutching their pearls over the menace of skateboarding and skaters weren’t welcome anywhere. Including, apparently, their own back yards.

In a Star Tribune article from June 19th, 1990, James Walsh wrote these cringey sentences on page 1B:

All over the Twin Cities, radical dudes struggling to master the art of sidewalk surfing are finding it tough to catch a wave.

Many city councils, including those in Minneapolis, St. Paul and several suburbs, have banned skateboarding from some or all city walkways and driveways. Angry neighbors, rallying against the noise and commotion caused by skaters doing their thing on homemade, back-yard ramps, are winning city ordinances to push then out of the neighborhoods.

Never mind that skateboarding lowers crimefosters creativityreduces childhood obesity, and adds life to cities. (Hat tip to GGWash for those links.) And it is an Olympic sport now.

I admit, this is personal. I spent a lot of time hanging out behind the local strip mall with my friends in the early 90s in Northern Virginia. It was one of the few places we wouldn’t get kicked out of as soon as we showed up. Now that I am in my 40s I just want to pull a manual pad and a quarter pipe out of the garage on the weekends. (Or build a mini ramp in the back yard and invite other skater dads over for Saturday afternoon sessions.)

Skateboarding may still be a public nuisance in many cities, but public officials seem to be warming up to it. Minnesota state senator Scott Dibble, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, and St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis are among those supporting a state-wide $30 million drive to fund the construction of world-class skate parks throughout Minnesota.

But skateboarding in your own driveway is still—legally, anyway—a public nuisance in Minneapolis.

Maybe it’s time to change that.

Want to help change the public’s perception of and support for skateboarding in Minneapolis? Support City of Skate!