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Skate Activism:

Fighting the Good Fight
Eddy Matzger goes to court to skate the Blue Ridge Parkway
By Robert "Just the Factoids" Burnson
posted Thursday, Nov. 2, 2006

Lucia and Eddy Matzger

Eddy Matzger and his mom, Lucia Matzger, atop Buffalo Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Skate legend Eddy Matzger has found the Blue Ridge Parkway, near his new home in Floyd, Virg., to be a skaters' paradise.

Nearly 500 miles long, the roadway, which is part of a national park, features smooth pavement, includes long stretches with little traffic and provides spectacular scenery.

But there's one problem: The park rangers don't want Eddy there ... at least not with his skates on.

Rangers have pulled him over three times this year while he was training on the parkway.

The first two times, they only issued warnings. But on July 26, a ranger wrote him a ticket for "use of Rollerblades in a prohibited area."


A section of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Floyd County, Virg., about a mile from where Matzger got his ticket.

Inline skating is allowed — and even encouraged — at some national parks. But for reasons that are not entirely clear, it is prohibited on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Matzger, one of the winningest skaters in the history of inline racing, is hoping to change that.

Rather than pay a $75 fine, he went to court Wednesday in Abingdon, Virg., to fight the ticket.

The ranger who wrote it didn't show up. So the federal magistrate, Pamela Meade Sargent, set a trial date of Dec. 6.

Matzger plans to be there.

"You have to fight for what's right," Matzger says, adding that cyclists are allowed on the parkway and skaters shouldn't be treated any differently.

The law that prohibits skaters from the parkway applies to all national parks, although some ignore it. It says:

Using roller skates, skateboards, roller skis, coasting vehicles, or similar devices is prohibited, except in designated areas. (Code of Federal Regulations: Title 36, Chapter 1, Part 2, Sec. 2.20)

Matzger suspects the law was passed before the advances in technology that led to the development of the sport of inline speed skating, which was considered last year for entry into the Summer Olympics.

A park spokesman said today that he was not sure what triggered the skate ban but that it probably involved public safety. "You have to remember that not all skaters are as competent on skates as he is," he said, referring to Matzger.

The spokesman cited a few safety concerns: 1.) the parkway lacks roomy shoulders; 2.) line-of-site is limited in some areas due to turns and hills; 3.) there is "significant traffic" in some areas and at some times of the year.

When asked why bikes are allowed while skates are not, he said he wasn't sure.

Matzger disputed the park's safety concerns. "The parkway is the safest place I've found to skate in my 18 years on the roadway," he said.

He estimated that only a 100 cars a day cross the stretch of parkway he trains on near Floyd.

He also noted that speeds are relatively low on the parkway. The speed limit is 45 mph.

The way he sees it, inline skating is a perfect fit with the mission of the national parks, which is to provide the public with access to nature while at the same preserving it.

He's hoping the judge will see it that way, too, and dismiss his ticket.

"I just want us to be left alone and allowed to do our own thing," he says.

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Copyright 2006 by Robert Burnson

Planet Classic: Eddy Matzger Interview

Latest headlines
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