Skating through the bad to the good


I still firmly believe that kids will be kids. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears, and not so-long-ago, done it with my own two hands and feet.
So I’m a tad reticent when handed an assignment that puts the establishment up against the kids.
The skateboarders in Callicoon story was no different.
Nestled in the bottom drawer of my dresser is a pile of shirts from so-called “skater” stores, and propped in the corner of my shed is Jonathan’s board.
But there were rumors going around Callicoon that the skateboarders had gone too far.
And I was put on the case.
So I made some calls.
I talked to business owners who were spitting mad. One was quite literally s— upon by a skateboarding punk. Another reported dozens of complaints ranging from vandalism to menacing.
They want the skateboarders gone.
Then I talked to the folks who are trying to rebuild a place for the skateboarders to go, the head of the Delaware Youth Center.
She wants to bring it back – she just wants the kids to behave.
I wrote it up and handed it in.
Word traveled back that meetings have begun – face-to-face between the Youth Center, the business owners and the kids.
Our job is done. We wrote the particulars, and they’ll hash it out.
Then we received two letters from skateboarders, and both played to my deep-seated emotions.
“We’re not all bad,” they said. “Just give us a place to skate, and we’ll do it.”
They’re absolutely right. Not every skateboarder is bad. For that matter, not every teenager with too much time and an active imagination is up to no good.
And we can’t expect the good eggs to whip those bad apples into sauce.
But broad-brush assessment or not, bad things happen around good people.
What it calls for is an out-of-the-box idea.
Take away a skatepark, and what do you have? A bunch of good kids who have nowhere to skate, and a few bad seeds with more venom to spew.
Sounds like a plan for disaster.
Or you could bring it back, ignore the business owners and just give the kids what they want.
The well-behaved skateboarders who just want some good clean fun will be happy. The handful of bad apples will continue to vandalize and menace the community, and the frustrated business owners will eventually pull their support from a facility that’s vital to the community.
Doesn’t sound good either, huh?
So, what to do?
As a reporter, I couldn’t say. As a community member, I present one of a million ideas.
Take a page from the books of other communities with good kids and bad kids, good adults and bad.
Study successful skateparks (I know a few) with the means for ensuring safety and good behavior and the funds to pay for it all.
Maybe hire a park supervisor, paid for by small fees charged to the skateboarders for the privilege of using the park?
I can’t say what’s best.
But I can tell you where to start – ask the kids. They’ve got too much time and too much imagination.
If they want something bad enough, they’ll work for it. They’ll shape up.
Kids will be kids, but that’s the beauty of it.
Kids can surprise you.

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