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Teens take steps to have place to skateboard

DULUTH - Avid skateboarders in Duluth may soon have a permanent place to practice their skills.

The Duluth City Council on Monday listened to the plea of two high school students and granted their wish to try out a skateboarding demo event at W.P. Jones Park. The American Ramp Co. on Friday will set up an area so young athletes can try the facilities out.

The hours are from 6 to 8 p.m. Jones Park is at 3770 Pleasant Hill Road, not far from Buford Highway.

This would be ideal for young people who "do not play baseball or basketball" and need a place for games and exercise, Thanh Le, a senior at Duluth High School, told the council. A member of Mary Anne Meeks' political systems citizenship class, Le brought along his teacher and a friend, Serkan Uzbey.

Both young men pointed out the need for a safe place for skateboarders. Many are practicing the sport in shopping centers, on the streets and in other high-traffic, dangerous places, they said.

On Tuesday, Meeks said the idea arose from a classroom project that prompted students to think of matters of everyday life they would like to see changed. Le, she said, thoughtfully asked if he could speak to the City Council about providing a place to skateboard.

Everything, with the help of Duluth's parks and recreation director, Kathy Marelle, began coming together.

Meeks is delighted.

"This was Thanh's project, and it's gone further than we thought," she said. "We want any kid who wants to try out the ramp to show up."

In other business on Monday, the council:

•Amended the ordinance on outdoor open burning to follow the same restrictions as those in Gwinnett County. Excluded would be such matters as cooking of food for immediate human consumption, burning necessary in the harvesting of crops, training of firefighters and the use of certain equipment such as kettles and blow torches. The ordinance allows the burning of leaves and yard waste during daylight hours when the wind is not blowing harder than 15 mph, and the fire is at least 200 feet from the nearest property line. The guidelines may be suspended during natural disasters, including tornadoes and severe storms, and may be enforced by the city administrator and his designees.

•Denied a request from the Hispanic Community Support Groups Inc., to use the ground floor of City Hall as a temporary location for their day labor and education programs, with council member Doris Kirouac saying she was concerned about the possibility of more traffic in the downtown area. "This has nothing to do with you," Mayor Pro Tem Doug Mundrick said. "After the meeting, I want to talk to you a little more about some other ideas I have."

•Proclaimed May 13 as Marine Corps League Day in the city. The league is a non-profit veteran organization, chartered by the Congress in 1937. The Georgia Black Sheep group will host its 15th annual convention in Duluth through today at the American Legion Post No. 251.

•Accepted two grants from the Georgia Department of Transportation including $150,000 for sidewalks on Davenport Road and $300,000 for the Western Gwinnett Bikeway Project.

•Approved the bid of $70,416 by Cunningham Landscaping for maintenance in Bunten Road Park to include applications for fertilizer and chemicals for the common areas and athletic fields. This is to begin after the current agreement ends June 30. The services are needed "to meet the needs of high activity and low down-time for all the athletic fields," the council said.