Robin McGuirk is taking what he fears may be his last ride down Southwest Fairview Boulevard.
It’s 1 pm on June 26 and the 35-year-old owner of Eastside Longboards is cruising down the West Hills. Two hours later, he’ll meet with Mayor Sam Adams to try to persuade him to vote against the ban on skating down these steep streets proposed by the area’s wealthy homeowners and backed by city commissioner Randy Leonard.
The ban on skating down a route called the Zoobomb—a 3-mile downhill run from up near the Hoyt Arboretum to the base of Washington Park—was eventually postponed until Sept. 5. Not yet knowing that, McGuirk is still riding while he can.
McGuirk is a veteran skater and knows these hills well. He’s been riding Portland streets since he was 8 and is now teaching Portland Community College’s Longboarding 101 class. The Zoobomb run is popular, second only to Mount Tabor, he explains, because skateboarders can ride the MAX from the bottom of Washington Park to the zoo station, then race down and do it again. It’s like a ski lift for skaters, and not something he thinks skaters will easily give up, despite the law.
“There are always going to be a few rogue skateboarders,” he says, his wiry light brown hair and scabbed, tan skin making him look very much the part. “There are going to be rogues like that in anything you do, even cars.”
As a business owner, McGuirk says he likes to obey the laws. Wearing a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads and gloves with skid plates on the palms, he rolls down the hill inside the speed limit and between the yellow lines before sliding to a controlled stop. “I didn’t cross the yellow, and I stopped before the white. You can quote me on that,” he says.
Against the skaters stand the wealthy residents of Arlington Heights, one of Portland’s toniest neighborhoods. A gated community with no gates, it hides behind the rolling hills of Washington Park, protected from the peasantry roaming the streets of Portland below. An attorney named Eric Nagle is leading the charge.
In a post on the Arlington Heights Neighborhood Association’s website, Nagle said, “this ordinance is sorely needed to curb the reckless skating that’s exploded here in recent years, resulting in numerous accidents.”
McGuirk believes if
Zoobombing is made illegal it will attract more young and rebellious
skaters who do it without as much regard for safety. “They think if they
ban it it’s going to stop,” McGuirk said, “It’s not. It’s going to
happen still and it’s going to be more dangerous.”