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'Skin in the game': Saving Manchester's skate park

To revitalize Manchester's public skateboard park, a local parent has proposed building a more attractive facility and including an entry fee. At least one aldermanic critic says charging kids to skate would deny access to low-income children. Yet across the street from the park, the city charges kids to skate at the JFK Coliseum. It can work for both venues.

The city-owned JFK Coliseum not only charges for ice skating, it limits public access. Public skating is held only on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The city also owns a ski slope, McIntyre Ski Area, and a golf course, Derryfield Country Club. People must pay to access all of those public properties. And unlike the Adam D. Curtis Skateboard Park, the city's pay-for-entry facilities are successful.

Kids and parents say the skateboard park is dominated by bullies, punks and graffiti artists. There is no adult supervision. In just a decade it has become a place many young skateboarders want to avoid.

Jim DeStefano, a commercial real estate developer who wants to save the park, has proposed upgrading the skate bowl and enclosing it. He would like to attach the new building to the Regis Lemire Community Center. He also wants skaters to have some "skin in the game" by having to pay to enter the facility, which would be managed by a private non-profit group.

This would turn the vandalized skate park into a first-rate facility free of bullies and vandals. And it would cost the city nothing, as volunteers would raise private money to build it.

It is more sensible for the city to have a nice, year-round facility with a modest entry fee than a free park that cannot be used in the winter and that few want to use in the summer. If the entry fee is a problem for some, surely the operating charity would agree to reduce it for qualifying families.

Eric Church
Saturday, 8 p.m.

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