Downtown Silver Spring has been a local skateboarding destination for decades. But many skaters say local authorities are squeezing them out of public spaces. We examine the local skating scene, and the contentious politics of a new skate park in Silver Spring.


  • Maryam Balbed Skateboard Activist, aka "Sk8ter Mom"
  • Darren Harper Professional Skater

Woodside Skatepark Interviews

Credit:CottonMouthSB via YouTube


  • 12:06:40

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Later in the broadcast, we head off the beaten path to find historic gems across D.C.'s neighborhoods, but first, skateboard politics come to downtown Silver Spring. It's been a skater Mecca for more than two decades, a place where young people converge to test out new moves and show off their skills. But skateboarders say they are feeling the squeeze in Silver Spring and, for that matter, around the region, that public spaces are increasingly off limits to young people who want to jump, grind and flip on asphalt and public benches. Most people probably would not consider this a policy issue, but advocates say it's a rare creative outlet for young people that doesn't cost any money and breaks down race and class lines. We're joined in studio by Darren Harper. He's a professional skater and a D.C. native who has skated in the District and Silver Spring for decades. Darren Harper, thank you very much for joining us.

  • 12:07:49

    MR. DARREN HARPERThank you, Mr. Kojo. I appreciate everything.

  • 12:07:52

    NNAMDIAppreciate you being here. Also with us in the studio is Maryam Balbed. She's a skateboard activist in Silver Spring better known by her alias Sk8ter Mom. That S-K-figure 8-T-E-R mom. (laugh) She's a mother of a teenage daughter who took up skating two years ago. She's been a lead organizer among the skating community in Silver Spring. Maryam Balbed, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:08:15

    MS. MARYAM BALBEDThank you very much for having me.

  • 12:08:16

    NNAMDILet me start with you, Maryam. Skateboarders have been amassing at Silver Spring for decades, but the town has always had an -- kind of arms-length attitude towards this activity. This summer, they came up with what they thought was a creative interim solution, built small skate parks in the Woodside neighborhood. But with skate parks, it really seems to be as simple as if you build it, they will come. In this case, it seems like way too many kids, however, are coming to use a pretty small space. Maryam, give us a sense of scale. Why is this park, in your opinion, too small?

  • 12:08:50

    BALBEDSeven kids, seven skaters can use this park at one time, and we have hundreds of skaters in Silver Spring. And seven kids can safely skate it at one time. But more than that, you start to have collisions and you start to have a lot of fights and problems because there's just not enough space.

  • 12:09:09

    NNAMDIYou get confrontations. This is a local new story about skating, which for young people can be a sport, a hobby, a subculture, even a way of life, but it's also really a public policy issue about what kind of spaces we make available to young people, isn't it?

  • 12:09:24

    BALBEDYes, indeed, it is. The sector plan for downtown Silver Spring has called for a skate park since 2000. And the intention was to replace a former skate park, which was interim, called East of Maui, which was very popular. And the --another purpose that -- for the planners to include a skate park in downtown was to protect the coming development from being damaged by skaters. And as the adage goes, if your city doesn't have a skate park, your city becomes a skate park. And essentially, if you have a skate park, if you have an adequate facility, that greatly reduces the damage to other developments that you don't want damaged by skateboarding. And -- so we've been pushing for and we've been asking for that for a very long time. We finally did get Woodside, but it's not nearly big enough with the large skater community we have.

  • 12:10:18

    NNAMDIIf you like to join the conversation, call us at 800-433-8850 or go to our website, You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow or send an e-mail to What kind of spaces do you think we should make available to young people? 800-433-8850. Darren, you've been skating for decades across this region. You are also one of a handful of black professional skaters. Tell us a little bit about how you got involved in skating.

  • 12:10:50

    HARPERBasically, I was born in Southeast D.C. And coming up, there was a show that came on in on TV, on Nickelodeon. And basically, me and a group of other kids that hang out in neighborhood, we saw this. And, you know, when you're younger, you just want a thrill. We wanna have fun, you know? We were just like the little adventurous kids, you know? And basically, when we saw that, I actually found a skateboard in some -- like in the neighborhood, you see a lot of people get evicted. It's an unfortunate situation, but, you know, that's how I got my first skateboard.

  • 12:11:27

    HARPERSo, you know, I got the -- my friends to gather there and we just started, you know, just mimicking what we saw on television. So we could go out and skate down the hills and pretend to be these big names we saw on the television. And from that point on, it was just something that kind of struck me at heart and, you know, I kind of stayed grounded with it for -- you know, I'm here today right now, you know?

  • 12:11:51

    NNAMDIIf you go to our website, in our off-mic section, you can find video of Darren Harper doing some of his moves. You started out mimicking other people, but now, you create your own moves.

  • 12:12:04

    HARPERYeah. I mean, (laugh) it's just, you know, I've always had a creative bone as well. I've always been very talented. As far as like acrobatic, I can flip box, do a lot of things. So, you know, basically, it's coming up in the streets. You know, I -- we were just -- we just needed something to do, you know, to keep us from all the negativity and things that was going on. And that's what basic skateboarding did for me. When, you know, something was always going wrong, you know, you had a skateboard on the other hand. And I had friends that was always doing things, going to different states, and they would take me along as a little kid with them. So it always kept me out of trouble.

  • 12:12:41

    NNAMDITalk about how the skating scene has expanded here. It is now, really, an interracial skating scene. It's a common issue across our region. We have a lot of land that's commonly thought off as public space, but it may not be as public as we think, Darren. For example, D.C.'s iconic skating spot has long been Pulaski Park in front of the Wixom Building and the Reagan Building in downtown D.C. That's where I saw you doing some of your gravity-defying tricks down there. (laugh) But skaters are not exactly welcomed there, are they?

  • 12:13:11

    HARPERNo, not at all. Because, I mean, basically, what, I guess, the park police said, and I believe it's owned by the government -- no, the federal government, I think.

  • 12:13:21


  • 12:13:22

    HARPERSo at the end of the day, they make it where -- well, we're not supposed -- really be skating there because I guess it's trespassing. They say we're destructing the property. You know, so basically, you know, we get our unwelcome ruling by the park police. You know, they show up, and they chase us out and things like that. And I feel that, you know, I mean, at the end of the day, I feel like because you know where your kids are, you know they're safe. And, you know, people come from all over, you know, the city to come skate this monumental place. You know what I'm saying? So I just figure, you know, I mean, I just feel like they should just let us be because, I mean, there's no problem, no harm in what we're doing.

  • 12:14:07

    NNAMDIBut for you, skating is what kept you out of trouble.

  • 12:14:09


  • 12:14:10

    NNAMDIMaryam, for example, in Silver Spring, one of the main skating tracks has always been Ellsworth Drive and Veterans Plaza. Both areas are public, but both areas are basically off limits. Explain.

  • 12:14:22

    BALBEDWell, Ellsworth Drive is the main street in the middle of a redevelopment area. It's owned by Peterson Companies, and it's called Downtown Silver Spring. And that is a public street. It's been established -- our county executive, Ike Leggett, was quoted in The Washington Post saying that it is a public street. And the manager of that development, Jennifer Nettles, she's been quoted in the Gazette saying it's a public street. Montgomery County Police has said the same thing, and yet, we are harassed, intimidated and banned and given one reason after another why we can't skate there.

  • 12:14:59

    BALBEDI think, you know, I'm so happy that Darren Harper is here because I don't believe there's a better person anywhere in the entire skateboarding world that -- whose life shows the transformative power that skateboarding can have. This young man is from Southeast. I'm from the Shaw area in D.C., and, you know, not too much different. And when you look at the path he could have gone down and where he is today, a very successful and inspirational young man, I know virtually all of the kids that I skate with -- and I'm very close to a lot of kids in Silver Spring -- they admire him so much. He's an inspiration to them. They look up to him and think of where his life is now, and the impact he's having on so many youths and where he might be were it not for skateboarding.

  • 12:15:40

    BALBEDI want -- when we look at disparities in many areas of life in America, I think it's important to look at the disparity in how our children live. Middle-class children, most of them that I know, they go -- they spend their summers going from camp -- one camp to another, whether it's gymnastics camp, theater camp, horseback riding camp. They have the opportunity to participate in and discover a lot of new fields of interest, things that they might enjoy in their lives. Many of our poor kids never go to a single summer camp, and they can't afford the county camps, and they really have nothing. And so I think the least we can do, particularly considering the huge problem that childhood obesity is, that we should be encouraging children to skate and give these children who have no other recreation or other activities, give them a chance to have something.

  • 12:16:32

    NNAMDIAllow me to encourage our listeners to participate. Some of you have already called. We still have a couple of lines open. Do you see skating as a public policy issue? Are you or one of your kids a skateboarder? Call us, 800-433-8850. You can also send us an e-mail to Here's Dan on the Beltway around Washington. Dan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:16:55

    DANHey, good afternoon, Kojo. How are you doing?

  • 12:16:57

    NNAMDII'm good.

  • 12:16:58

    DANHey. So I grew up skateboarding in the '70s. It was awesome then. It's awesome now. What these kids are doing physically, it's spectacular the tricks that they're doing now compared to what we did as a kid. I can't -- some of the reasoning behind not doing skateboarding in public spaces because if they wipe out, the skateboard becomes a missile, you know, they tear up the edges off park benches or they tear up, you know, edges off concrete. I get that. It's not a big deal to me. Me, though, there should be more skate parks because, like you guys are saying, it keeps you out of trouble. It gives something to do. What's the old expression that, you know, the idle hands are the devil's hands?

  • 12:17:41

    NNAMDIThe devil finds work for idle hands.

  • 12:17:43

    DANYup, there you go. Look, if you give a kid something to do, he's not gonna be messing around. I think the two people sitting in front of you were a classic example of it. Skateboarding is not a crime, and there should be more skate parks in the D.C. area, period.

  • 12:17:59

    NNAMDIDan, those amens you hear are from our two guests in the studio...

  • 12:18:03

    NNAMDI...right now. Dan, thank you very much for your call. We move on to Liz, who is in Silver Spring, Maryland. Liz, you're on the air. Go ahead, pleas.

  • 12:18:11

    LIZHi, thanks for having me on. And I wanted to echo the sentiment of your previous caller, and the devil's hands are -- idle hands are the devil's workshop.

  • 12:18:20


  • 12:18:20

    LIZThat's what my mother always says. So I live, like, two minutes from that park, and it's way too small for the number of kids. And when we go over there to watch, we take my daughter over there. And those kids are really nice and polite. They're not looking to make any trouble. They're -- for the most part, if you talk to them, they'll talk back to you, and they'll tell you what they're doing. And they're having a good time. So I don't know if there's something that someone like me, who's a resident in Woodside, who's middle age, middle income, can do to help the two of you maybe advocate, you know, help you guys figure out a way to get a bigger channel.

  • 12:18:54

    NNAMDIMaryam, what can Liz do...

  • 12:18:56

    LIZSo something that people like me can do that live in Woodside and support the kids. I think it's a great thing for them to do, and it's fun for me and my daughter to watch. What can we do to help you?

  • 12:19:06

    NNAMDIWell, you should know that Maryam has been working to organize these teenagers to protest and participate in the planning process. Maryam, you can talk about that for a little bit.

  • 12:19:16

    BALBEDWell, first, I want to say, Liz, I think I may have met you. If you were at the park one day with a couple of little girls skating, is that...

  • 12:19:23

    LIZYeah, and you were -- you told us you were writing, and we have mutual friends. That's Ian and Kumar maybe or Stephen Dill (sp?).

  • 12:19:29

    BALBEDI don't know, but if you can send me an e-mail at -- it's M-A-R-Y-A-M-B -- as in boy -- A-L-B -- again -- E-D@gmail. I would love to talk to you.

  • 12:19:43

    LIZIs it on the website Kojo? 'Cause I'm on the beltway right now, breaking the law.

  • 12:19:47

    NNAMDI(laugh) We'll put a link on -- we'll make sure we put a link on the website for Maryam's e-mail. Try not to break any laws, Liz.

  • 12:19:54

    LIZYeah. I'm being careful. Okay. So I'll shoot you an e-mail and good luck to you guys. And there are people like me that support you so

  • 12:20:02

    HARPERThank you.

  • 12:20:02

    BALBEDThank you so much.

  • 12:20:03

    LIZ...don't feel like you're out there on your own.

  • 12:20:04

    NNAMDIThanks a lot for your call. Darren, D.C. has a small skate park in the Shaw neighborhood but there are plans for bigger and better things locally. Talk about that park first because that's the neighborhood I raised my kids in for 20 years and it's right there on 7th Street.

  • 12:20:19

    HARPEROkay. Basically, the skate park that's there already, you have a basketball court which is next to it, and the basketball court is smoother than the actual pavement that's on the skate park surface. So that's really one of our complaints, you know, because I mean, a ball can bounce basically on any type of terrain but skateboard wheels can't really roll on grass or roll on rocks and things like that, so that's basically where we're having our issues at. So basically I've been speaking with the Councilmembers James Pittman and...

  • 12:20:56

    NNAMDIThe Councilmembers -- Harry Thomas?

  • 12:20:58

    HARPERHarry Thomas. Thank you.

  • 12:20:59

    NNAMDIWard 5 Councilmember. Yes.

  • 12:21:00

    HARPERYes, sir. Harry Thomas and we, you know, we've been discussing these things and they told me we would make this thing happen. And actually when I was there at the council members' office, a young man came up -- was saying that there was plans to reduce Shaw so...

  • 12:21:16

    NNAMDIYeah. Because you say you really just want some basic renovations.

  • 12:21:19

    HARPERThat's it. We just need to renovate Shaw and we can keep it moving. Because I figure, like, I know these things are costly and, you know, but at the end of the day, in the long run it's gonna save lives because again skateboarding has saved my life. And, you know, I mean it's just -- you'll know where your kid's at. You can almost bank on it that they'll be at that skate park. There's a corner store right across the street, you know? There's a basketball court there. Whatever you wanna do, it's there.

  • 12:21:44

    NNAMDIAnd it's right down from what we in the neighborhood call LW.

  • 12:21:47

    HARPERYes. Okay. (laugh)

  • 12:21:48

    NNAMDILincoln Westmoreland.

  • 12:21:49

    BALBEDAnd it's important to remember that skate parks physically save lives. In 2006, there were 42 skateboarding deaths in America. Of those 42, 40 happened outside of skate parks. The majority of skateboard-related fatalities are motor vehicle involved, and it's kids skating in the street. They don't have a place to skate. So if kids are in a skate park, they're kept safe. And earlier you mentioned -- you asked me about organizing teens. I found it interesting that while young skateboarders tend to have a negative perception that people tend to have a negative perception of them, I have found it very easy to organize kids, to get kids with two days notice sometimes, to get 30 kids to show up for a meeting and to speak up and we've seen that a number of times in Silver Spring. They've been coming to meetings…

  • 12:22:38

    NNAMDIBut it's my understanding that the powers that be apparently don't approve of this very much.

  • 12:22:43

    BALBEDApprove of them participating?

  • 12:22:44

    NNAMDIOf young people participating and protesting.

  • 12:22:47

    BALBEDI can’t say they don’t approve of it, but I can't say also that they respond much to it. In my experience, kids are not taken seriously. Kids have been heavily involved in skateboard activism in Silver Spring since at least 2005 when a young skater named Lisa Jaeggi created a short film called "No No Skateboarding." And this was in 2005, and she was dealing with the exact same issues that we are dealing with today and not a whole lot has changed since then.

  • 12:23:16

    NNAMDIWe're gonna take a short break but you should know that on Tuesday, we'll be heading to Silver Spring for "Kojo in Your Community," and we'll be talking more about what we expect from our urban spaces and how young people fit into that equation. That's Tuesday, September 21 at the Silver Spring Civic Center and Veterans Plaza at Ellsworth Drive between Fenton and Cedar Streets. Doors open at 5:45 p.m. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:25:12

    NNAMDIWe're continuing our conversation on skateboarding and politics with Darren Harper. He is a professional skater and a D.C. native who has skated in the District and in Silver Spring for decades. Also joining us in the studio is Maryam Balbed. She's a skateboard activist in Silver Spring better known by her alias Sk8ter Mom. She's a mother of a teenaged daughter who took up skating two years ago, and she's been a lead organizer among the skating community in Silver Spring. Maryam, as we said, you are currently referred to as Sk8er Mom. How did you become a skater?

  • 12:25:44

    BALBEDMy 13-year-old daughter got involved in skateboarding, and I thought it would be something that will be a good bonding activity to do with her. But also, as I mentioned earlier, I did grow up in the Shaw area and this was when it was one of D.C.'s largest and most active open-air drug markets. I grew up around -- surrounded by drugs, prostitutes, pimps, violence, lots of violence, and that kind of -- growing in up in that kind of environment, it does, even if you survive it, it does leave a legacy. And so I struggled with issues like depression and anxiety that were absolutely a legacy of how I had grown up. And as many of the kids that I work with and that I skate with, they experienced the same things. And I felt that -- I wasn't interested in taking psychiatric medications, and I felt like skateboarding would be therapy in a sense. And it has absolutely been that. It's that for me and for a whole lot of people.

  • 12:26:41

    NNAMDIThere's only one really important question, though. How good are you?

  • 12:26:44

    BALBED(laugh) Not good.

  • 12:26:46

    BALBEDNot good. But unfortunately, I was never interested in being a skateboard activist, and most of my time has been consumed with doing that. I would much prefer to just skate, and then I might have some skills.

  • 12:26:59

    NNAMDIOne of the things that jumps out at me, Darren, as I watched these videos, how is multi-racial the skateboarding community is. When you were coming up, was this coded as a white thing to do? Has that changed?

  • 12:27:10

    HARPERYes, sir. It was always coded as, you know, it's -- not too, you know, -- just not too fond to see Afro-Americans doing it. So...

  • 12:27:19


  • 12:27:19 the end of the day, I had to struggle with that growing up. You know, I would have my skateboard (laugh) put in a trash bag...

  • 12:27:25

    NNAMDIBecause you were hard, yeah.

  • 12:27:26

    HARPERYeah. (laugh) You know how I sad it was? I didn't want (laugh) -- I thought it would take a way a little bit from my credit...

  • 12:27:32

    NNAMDINo one looks off.

  • 12:27:32

    HARPERBut yeah, don't wanna looks off. That's the hood thing. You know, and just growing up with the crew, with things like that, everybody see me, I was that cool type of guy. But, you know, that skateboarding would just crush everything for me. I would go to school sometimes and when I would get caught, like on a subway, I'd bump into a female or something. (laugh) And she go back -- I mean, she goes back to school and tells everybody, yo, I seen him on a bus with a skateboard.

  • 12:27:56

    HARPERSo I was obviously trying to hide and everything, but now...

  • 12:27:59

    NNAMDIBut now it's different.

  • 12:27:59

    HARPERYeah. Now it's definitely different. I mean, you see kids of all races everywhere. No matter – like, I go to Georgetown now. I'm so happy, I see kids coming out of stores with skateboards and things like that. It just makes me feel good because, you know, I feel that I have contributed a little bit to, you know, what's going on in the DMV. And, you know, I mean -- I just wanna see it progress and I wanna keep it alive and keep it going. I have kids, and they love it as well. My son is always on -- he's learning how to work the computer, so he's bringing my videos up on YouTube.

  • 12:28:31

    NNAMDISo that's where I'm catching your videos...

  • 12:28:33

    HARPERYes. (laugh)

  • 12:28:33

    NNAMDI…on YouTube from. It's your son who's bringing them up. (laugh) But Maryam, down -- how do you respond to e-mails like this? This one from Keith in Sliver Spring. "Skateboarders are a menace on public spaces. Coming out of the Sliver Spring Metro Station on the far side of Colesville is like running a gauntlet. They're dangerous, seem to think they have a right to disrupt working folks coming and going to the Metro. They come very close to colliding with pedestrians along with unmanned boards flying all over the place."

  • 12:28:59

    NNAMDIThis email we got from Evan. "The premise here is deeply flawed. It's not the responsibility of government or society at large to provide skate parks or anything else for your kids. They are your kids, and they are your responsibility. They should be 100 percent your liability. The answer to skateboard punks damaging the city is not to use taxes to reward and spoil them. The answer is to create a hundred percent accountability. Your kid breaks the law, you pay a heavy fine and you spend the mandatory amount of time in jail." That would be you he's talking about, (laugh) Maryam.

  • 12:29:30

    BALBEDWell, you know, when we look at issues of, you know, our kids, teens across the country, they are in crisis. The suicide rate, childhood obesity, the drop out rate, unemployment rate -- our kids have a lot of challenges today. And, you know, on one hand, these people who are talking this way and so easily and casually disparaging so many of our children, they would likely be some of the first people when these kids commit a crime or get into trouble to say, you know, why weren't they doing something constructive? Well, these kids are trying to do something constructive, and whether someone likes skateboarding or not, that's really not the issue.

  • 12:30:15

    BALBEDBut if our children are active and busy and engaged in the pursuit of excellence, then I think by all means, we should encourage that. I grew up in the '70s in Washington, D.C. when, you know, it used to be if a kid showed up at a rec center, there would actually be staff there, there would be people there. They tended to be young people. They tended to be young people who knew all the latest dances and all the music that kids were listening to, and you could relate to them. And they would pull you into any number of different programs, just get you involved in something. Those programs are gone, those rec centers are closed, and our kids in the inner cities and the poor kids even in the suburbs -- and we have plenty of them -- they really don't have a lot of options.

  • 12:30:57

    NNAMDIHere is Jason in Baltimore, Md. Jason, your turn.

  • 12:31:01

    JASONHey, how's it going?

  • 12:31:03

    NNAMDIGoing well.

  • 12:31:04

    JASONAll right. Well, Darren has actually been here. He was here a couple months ago. This is Jason from the Charm City Skate Park in Baltimore, Md.

  • 12:31:11

    HARPERHow you’re doing, bro?

  • 12:31:11

    JASONHey, what's up man? (laugh) So, like, we -- we have supported skateboarding. I hear this argument that the guy, that the guy just...

  • 12:31:18

    NNAMDIThe email I just read, yeah.

  • 12:31:20

    JASONYeah, that was utterly ridiculous. If you don't realize that these people are -- that these kids are our future and invest something in them, it -- the real problem is that skateboarding isn’t, like, straight basketball or baseball or any of these sports that these people are used to...

  • 12:31:38

    HARPERThat's right.

  • 12:31:38

    JASONIt's something completely different and it's not technically a sport. It’s more of an art form.

  • 12:31:42


  • 12:31:43

    JASONIt's your own personal expression. And what you can do is ride down a hill and it's feel great. Or you can, you know, grind a curb or grind a handrail or something, that feels great, too. But it's your own (laugh) personal expression and it’s trying to -- to make outlets for these -- available for kids that I believe it is the -- the government's responsibility only because they outlaw it so many times.

  • 12:32:05

    NNAMDIOkay, thank you very much for your call, Jason.

  • 12:32:07


  • 12:32:08

    NNAMDILet's get the opposite point of view, I think, from John in Washington, D.C. John, you're on the air. Go ahead please.

  • 12:32:14

    JOHNThank you, Mr. Nnamdi. I live in downtown Washington, D.C. and I'm not against skateboarding. I believe it's a good form of exercise for the kids, but it's extremely destructive. It's a new form of graffiti. And there's a park downtown called the Pershing Park, across the street from the Willard Hotel.

  • 12:32:30


  • 12:32:30

    JOHNThe skateboarders have gone down there and they have wrecked that place. They break up the granite and this man mentioned grinding a few minutes ago?

  • 12:32:38


  • 12:32:38

    JOHNThey take their boards, they don't just skate. They jump on the side of the granite edges and cut it down, sliding. It looks like they poured grease on it. One day, a fellow jumped up there in -- on the monument by the general's statue and cut a great big cut mark. And so I told the police department, I said, how come you don’t tell those kids, this is a park -- a memorial to a very famous general? So he says, well, that the park police had to handle it. He said I'm against it, not very much we can do about it.

  • 12:33:07

    NNAMDIWhat do you think we should do about it, John?

  • 12:33:09

    JOHNI think the D.C. government should allow a skate park to be built out there by the Stadium-Armory, you know, where they have those fence...

  • 12:33:19


  • 12:33:20

    JOHNAnd that's a nice wide area. They're putting a space out there. And all kids got to go out there. And any person going downtown and destroy -- have you been on the Freedom Plaza?

  • 12:33:29

    NNAMDII have been on the Freedom Plaza, but the reason I asked you what you thought the solution was is you seem to think that one park in one neighborhood can work for all of the kids in the region. And I suspect, Maryam Balbed, you would say, that's not what we're talking about.

  • 12:33:43

    BALBEDNo. In a study done between 1998 and 2008, the National Sporting Goods Association tracked all the sports that grew in participation by at least 15 percent. Skateboarding beat them all, growing by 74.1 percent. The 2007 title "Social Issues in Sport," they are reviewed -- studies by the sporting -- National Sporting Goods Association and Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, which found that teens -- there has been a dramatic shift in teens turning away from team sports, and the participation in team sports since 1990s down 30 percent, whereas in the same period, participation in action sports is up in excess of 600 percent. So skateboarding is very possibly the fastest growing sport in America. One skate park in the city of Washington is not going to do it.

  • 12:34:39

    NNAMDIHere is Alex in Silver Spring, Md. John, thank you for your call. Alex, how are you doing?

  • 12:34:44

    ALEXI'm doing fine, Kojo. Thank you.

  • 12:34:46

    NNAMDIGo ahead.

  • 12:34:47

    ALEXThe main reason that I'm calling is because I think that this is a wonderful conversation to a wider issue, and it's the lack of things for our teenagers to do, for our kids to do, in all of our areas. Now, about skateboarding in particular, what it speaks to is to our inability to respond quickly to changing trends in terms of recreation. I think that we have plenty of parks. We have biking trails and bicycle trails, and we have all these things. But these are not what kids are doing now. And like you're -- like the guest just said, I mean this is a growing sport. And we need to be more responsive. You know, to the cranky caller that, you know, (laugh) from Silver Spring, I would say, look, seriously, it is a menace to have people skating among people trying to get, you know, out of, you know, the Metro and trying to get home after a busy day.

  • 12:35:45

    ALEXAnd to the guy that's destroying monuments, I happen to agree with him, too. And yes, it takes personal responsibility for all damage caused, et cetera, et cetera, but the root cause is that we don't have the facilities. Our kids in the Silver Spring area, a few years back, used to congregate in the woods, you know, where I lived -- and drink. And, you know, the neighbors were up in arms, and they wanted to throw them out. But the solution was not to throw them out, was not police enforcement, was not building fences. As soon as we headed downtown Silver Spring, most of those problems went away. So really, as a society, as a community, what we need to be doing is encouraging these kind of things and being more responsive in terms of other type of recreational facilities...

  • 12:36:31

    NNAMDIAlex, we've just about run out of time, but thank you very much. We've posted a video on our website,, and it was created by a bunch of skaters as a sort of high-tech letter to city planners. So you can go there and see that video. Maryam Balbed is a skateboard activist in Silver Spring. She's better known by her alias, sk8ter mom. She is the mother of a teenaged daughter. She took up skating two years ago. She's been a lead organizer among the skating community in Silver Spring. Maryam, thank you very much for joining us.

  • 12:36:58

    BALBEDThank you so much for having me.

  • 12:36:59

    NNAMDIGood luck to you. Darren Harper is a professional skater and D.C. native. You can see some of his moves at our website, Darren has been skating here in the District and Silver Spring for decades. Darren, great to meet you, thank you very much for joining us. Good luck to you.

  • 12:37:13

    HARPERThank you as well for having me.

  • 12:37:14

    NNAMDIAnd remember, once again on Tuesday, we'll be heading to Silver Spring for "Kojo in Your Community." We'll be talking more about urban spaces and young people. That's Tuesday, Sept. 21 at the Silver Spring Civic Building in Veteran Plaza at Ellsworth Drive between Fenton and Cedar Streets. Doors open at 5:45 pm. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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