WATCH: That Time Ed Bacon Skateboarded Across LOVE Park
On Friday I wrote about how skateboarders turned LOVE Park into a great public place. The park is now being overhauled with a new design, and it was re-opened to skateboarders for five days before major construction begins.
All weekend, hundreds of people braved cold temperatures to skate at the park; on Friday night they were even shoveling snow. In case you wondered just how Philly this was, there were two flaming barrels at LOVE yesterday.
But I didn’t write about the time when a 92-year-old Ed Bacon, the city planner responsible for LOVE Park, skated across it in 2002 in defiance of Mayor John Street and City Council’s skateboarding ban. It was awesome, and you can watch it above.
Bacon was against the skateboarding ban from the start. “I am deeply disturbed by the hypocrisy of City Council,” he wrote in a letter to the editor. “After decrying the drugs and crime of our young people, it then adopted legislation forbidding the one harmless thing that young people had developed strictly on their own, the wonderful national network of skateboarding focusing on LOVE Park.”
Then, in October 2002, Bacon contacted then-City Paper editor Howard Altman and told him he wanted to skate across LOVE Park, and he wanted CP to help set it up. Awesome, right? It would happen on October 28th.
The media event started with Vincent Kling, the architect of the park, decrying the skateboarding ban as well: “I built this place so that people could enjoy it. And that includes skateboarders.”
A police officer then strode up to Bacon and company, according to Ed Bacon: Planning, Politics, and the Building of Modern Philadelphia. “Don’t do this,” she said. but Bacon insisted he would. The cop called for backup, but fortunately the 92-year-old city planner was able to avoid arrest.
He had a statement, too, per the book: “I conceived LOVE Park … I make no claim to be a leader, but by God I am a person and I stand up to Mayor Street and tell him to go to Hell and stay there until he sees the light and changes his ways by going to LOVE Park each day with a smile on his face and a warm welcoming handshake, to greet the skateboarders of the world.” (As you can see in the video above, he first accidentally called Mayor Street “Mayor Goode.” Sharp as a tack, though, he corrected himself immediately.)
Then Bacon skateboarded across LOVE Park as media watched and skateboarders cheered. “Scanning the plaza for police, I put my right shoulder under Bacon’s left arm and, with the assistance of City Paper editorial design director Brian Hogan, steady Bacon on the board,” Altman wrote. “I really hope I don’t let the old man fall as a shaky Bacon rolls for about 25 feet and decides he has had enough. He gets off the board and howls in delight.”
“Oh God, thank you, thank you,” Bacon said. “My whole damn life has been worth it just for this moment.”
Bacon again took a shot at the current city administration: “I think it is very ungenerous of the city that it couldn’t spare one of its 2,864 blocks for the skateboarders of the world.”
The city was unmoved. Spokesman Frank Keel told City Paper: “We have not heard any continuing complaints about the loss of LOVE Park to skateboarders, but we have heard repeatedly how much nicer the park is now.”
This week, finally, the battle is over. Bacon and the skateboarders lost. But damn if they didn’t put up a good fight.
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