For most people in Melbourne, Lincoln Square is just a little plaza next to a tram stop in the inner north. But for skaters, the spot is a touchstone. Smooth concrete, lots of stairs, and long low ledges all contribute to its status as one of Australia's best spots.
Predictably, local residents have been complaining for years about all the noise and happiness coming out of Lincoln. At their behest skateboarding there was technically outlawed in 2009, partly because the space contains a memorial for the Bali bombings. However, the City of Melbourne later admitted the law was unenforceable due to the sheer volume of skateboarders using the area.
The council has since allocated $450,000 "to redesign the Lincoln Square Plaza area to end and prevent skateboard activities in response to growing community concerns regarding rubbish and the behaviour of large congregations of people." The resurfacing, which will make it impossible to skate in Lincoln, is set to start in a matter of weeks.
We headed down to the park to talk to some skaters about the significance of Lincoln, and what they'll do when it's gone.
Anthony Mapstone, 42
Co-owner of Fast Times Skateshop and Xen Skateboards
VICE: Hi Anthony, what does the end of skating at Lincoln mean for the local skate community?
Anthony Mapstone: It will just make skaters go to other places. I don't think it will slow skating down at all but it will take away one of the best meeting spots and the only central plaza we have in Melbourne.
Why couldn't a skatepark replace a spot like Lincoln?
Skateparks are filled with bmx-ers and scooter kids and their parents. They don't know skate etiquette so they're always in the way. They're just dangerous. A street plaza like Lincoln is ideal for a skater because it's dominated by skaters and there's good etiquette. Also, we've found in Melbourne that the skateparks being built aren't what we want. We go there and skate them but we'll end up back at Lincoln or another street spot.
To what degree do you think the Bali bombing memorial plays a role in the council's decision?
The people that are anti-skateboarding are using that as a scapegoat to have it closed down. Last year, I was in meetings with the city council and the architect who designed the memorial said he actually wanted it to be used by the youth because it was young people who died in the attacks. He was proud that skateboarders are using it.
So why exactly is Lincoln getting shut down?
Because residents are complaining about the sound traveling up to their luxury apartments and disturbing their peace. It's a combination of ignorance and people wanting their luxurious lifestyle maintained rather than allowing the youth to enjoy their chosen art form/sport.
Casey Foley, 25
4 Skateboard Company-sponsored skater
Hi Casey, why does Lincoln Square matter to you?
It's a trustworthy place where we can catch up with mates and express ourselves without being hassled. I've been skating there for seven years.
People say skaters should just go to skateparks. Is street skating important?
Professional skateboarding wouldn't exist without street skating, none of us would be sponsored, and there would be no skate videos coming out. Street has a much stronger culture than the skateparks. It's less competitive and more friendly.
But Lincoln contains a memorial for the Bali bombings.
Sure but people skated it before it was a memorial. It was called "rough nuts" because it was a rough spot. Then they refurbished it and made it into a memorial. But it was a skate spot first.
Also when they have the annual memorial service, no one skates there. People put up messages on Instagram to remind people not to go skate Lincoln that day. Everyone pays respect in that way.
Do you think a redesigned Lincoln will affect street skating in Melbourne?
Definitely not. On most days 50 different people will come to Lincoln. Shutting it down will just mean 50 more people skating at other street spots in Melbourne. I'm not going to stop street skating.
Sebastian Vaccaris, 30
Why is Lincoln important to you?
It's actually one of the reasons I moved to Melbourne, so you can tell how much it means to me. Living in a city means connecting with it on different levels: reinterpretation, reincorporation, interaction, and community. Lincoln is a place where I can do all those things. At Lincoln I get to interact with my city and the people that live around it, and skate at the same time.
Are you aware that Lincoln contains a memorial for the Bali bombings? What do you think about that?
Yes, I'm aware. I personally think is great that the memorial has been built for people and used by people.
Why would you rather skate at Lincoln than an actual skatepark?
Because street skating is street skating—literally—and any social interaction that promotes health, art, and culture shouldn't be suppressed.
Pat Abrams, 25
Why is the redevelopment of Lincoln a bummer for the local skate scene?Lincoln is an Australian icon for skateboarding and probably the best spot I've ever skated. People come from all over Australia to go there.
Why do skaters prefer street spots like Lincoln to skateparks?
A skatepark feels like a training facility—it gets boring. A skatepark is a good place for kids to go but in the streets you can get away from the kids.
What about the noise complaints from residents, what would you say to them?
You live in the middle of the fucking city, you can hear sirens every two seconds, there are trams coming and going all the time. Stop whining. That's what I'd say to them.
Matt Lauricella, 29
Hi Matt. What do you think is the significance of Lincoln for the Melbourne skate scene?
It's just such a famous spot to skateboarders. You watch American skate videos with big name pros and they've filmed tricks at Lincoln. And it's got that community vibe as well.
What what makes it irreplaceable? Why would people prefer Lincoln to an actual skatepark?
Skateparks are fun but the real soul of skateboarding is on the street. It's about adapting to other environments, that's the appeal of it.
So no matter how many great skateparks get built, skaters will always want to skate on the street?
Absolutely, that's the point. No matter how many spots get destroyed, no matter how many skate stoppers are installed, no many how many spots they try to stop us from skating, we will always find a way to adapt to the environment.
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