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Skate park blues: Will punks ruin the fun?

Public skate parks across Southern New Hampshire are beleaguered. Their troubles come not from a dearth of taxpayer funding. Despite these tough times, many municipalities have funded and continue to fund these asphalt and concrete oases for skateboarders. Their troubles come from some skaters who treat the parks and their fellow skaters so poorly that they might end up spoling the fun for everyone.

Vandalism plagues skate parks everywhere, even in high-rent towns like Windham and Bedford. Keene spends thousands of dollars a year to paint over graffiti. Granted, this is not a problem confined to skate parks. Rude, hostile patrons who make trouble for other patrons and the good folks who keep an eye on these public facilities do, however, seem to be a lot more prevalent at skate parks than at other public parks.

Cursing and bully-like behavior by some skaters have driven families away in Manchester and Windham. It is a widespread problem even though it comes from a small group of &#';skate punks,&#'; not the majority of skateboarders. But that does not make it any less serious. When towns have to spend thousands of dollars a year to fix vandalism and families cannot bring their children because of incivility, towns are right to rethink the wisdom of keeping these amenities as public expenses. The same would go for swimming pools and playgrounds. If the costs outweigh the benefits, it&#';s time to shut them down or privatize them.

If skateboarders don&#';t want to lose these taxpayer-funded facilities because of the bad behavior of some of their own, they have an option.

They should show some leadership and help clean up the parks. They should volunteer to remove trash and graffiti and help with repairs. And they should stop tolerating the crass behavior. Some have done that already. Those who leave that leadership to others should not complain if they arrive at their local park one day to find it closed. If they won&#';t step forward to help care for it, why should anyone else?

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