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National

Philadelphia Mayor Lifts Ban On Love Park Skateboarding Before Renovation

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Demolition begins today with the best skateboarding spots in the world. LOVE Park in the middle of downtown Philadelphia has been a legendary, if illegal, skate spot for decades. From member station WHYY in Philadelphia, Peter Crimmins sent this audio postcard on the skaters' last hurrah over the weekend.

PETER CRIMMINS, BYLINE: LOVE Park is a public park built in the '60s. It has concrete benches, granite flagstones and a large fountain. To skateboarders around the world, this is Mecca.

JEFF LUTEZO: The ledges are perfect - perfect height, length. There are so many different ones. The curve ledges - I mean, it was almost like it was designed for skateboarding, but it wasn't.

CRIMMINS: That is Jeff Lutezo. He's been skating here since 1987. His was the first generation to discover the park's illicit benefits.

LUTEZO: It was our home, you know? It was just - we would be here all night. Sometimes I slept here, you know? For kids, nobody cared. We could do whatever we wanted. We had barbecues here.

CRIMMINS: In the 1990s, the city of Philadelphia banned all skateboarding in the park, but that does not deter people like Andrea Bethka. She comes every day to take her chances.

ANDREA BETHKA: It's like the same routine - like, get up early, go to work, get off work, come down here, skate, run from the cops, stay up late, get up early.

CRIMMINS: LOVE Park has been in countless skate videos, magazine spreads. It's featured in the Tony Hawk skateboarding videogame. Last week, the mayor of Philadelphia threw skateboarders a bone when he lifted the ban off skateboarding before the park is to be ripped up for a planned renovation. So Aaron Grisham drove six hours with his friends from Suffolk, Va., to experience LOVE before it's gone.

AARON GRISHAM: Skateboarding is just, like, a big deal to us. We always see it in skate videos and stuff, and skate videos are a big deal to us.

CRIMMINS: Over the weekend, skaters jumped the gun on demolition. They broke branches off the park's trees, burning them in trash cans to stay warm in the subfreezing weather, and at least one guy pried up a granite flagstone to take home as a reminder of what he says was the best skateboarding spot in the world. For NPR News, I'm Peter Crimmins in Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.