NASHUA – That skateboard under the Christmas tree could wind up contributing to lawbreaking.
A proposal being pushed by Ward 6 Alderman Robert Dion would outlaw skateboarding or inline skating on any street in the city.
The idea has created a brouhaha in a Ward 6 neighborhood off East Dunstable Road, where some believe the legislation is aimed at them and is a reaction to complaints about a group of neighborhood children riding skateboards in the street.
“Kids are supposed to be outside having fun. It’s better than playing video games all day or watching TV,” said skateboarding fan Jason Townsend, 14, of Paul Avenue.
Townsend said he and his friends have two rails for an ad hoc skateboard park they set up in the street. The riders jump their boards onto the metal rails and slide along them, grinding the board against the metal.
Townsend and his friends risk losing their almost daily practice if Dion’s proposal is enacted.
Dion, the chairman of the aldermanic Infrastructure Committee, said he is acting to try to keep city children safe and out of the streets. The committee will hold a hearing on the proposal tonight at 7 in the City Hall aldermanic chamber.
“I couldn’t in good faith wait until some kid gets hurt or killed. It’s strictly a safety issue,” he said. “I’m trying to stop kids from Dion said the memory of a young boy killed in August 2003 while riding a scooter is driving him to act. A 10-year-old was riding a borrowed scooter at dusk on Concord Street near the Hills Ferry Road intersection when he collided with an oncoming Jeep and died.
However, Dion’s proposal does not cover just scooters, and it would not apply just to children.
The ordinance would cover “every vehicle propelled solely by human power upon which a person may ride and shall include skateboards, inline skates, roller skates, unicycles, scooters, and all other similar devices, except bicycles.”
It would expand on a more limited law enacted several years ago by the Board of Aldermen.
That measure forbids skateboards and similar devices on sidewalks and streets in the Main Street business district, from Library Hill to 300 Main St., including one block on either side of Main Street. The law also prohibits skateboards and roller skates in city parking lots and parking garages, City Hall Plaza, Library Plaza, the bus terminal area and Elm Street Middle School.
Dion’s proposal would broaden the prohibition by making all city streets off limits.
Violating the existing ordinance can earn the offender a police citation and a fine of up to $25. The same penalties would apply if the aldermen approve the citywide prohibition.
Dion said he has heard complaints from people about skateboarders.
“It’s irritating to the neighborhood,” Dion said. “Some people want their kids playing in the streets. I say no.”
Lucien Desmarais, of 16 Roy St., said he wants to stop young people from playing in the road because he knows what it is like to rush an injured child to a hospital.
Once, a now grown daughter was thrown from her tricycle after a motorcycle hit her when she was riding it, Desmarais said. “I wouldn’t wish that on anybody,” he said.
The noise is secondary to safety issues, said the father of two grown children.
But Darlene Beardsley, mother of the skateboard-riding Townsend, said it is noise concerns that caused her neighbors to talk to Dion.
Noise should be expected in a city, and especially in a neighborhood with children, she said.
“They are not living in an adult community,” she said.
Noise is just part of the neighborhood, like the teenager nearby who races the engine of his Mustang muscle car, said Beardsley, who has lived in her neighborhood for 10 years. The area has a lot of children who play together, she said.
“They all stick up for one another. They all teach each other,” she said.
Wendy Rainville, who lives at 15 Roy St. in the same neighborhood, said the proposed law would take away what her two children do for fun.
“They would take away all my kids’ toys, basically,” said Rainville, who has spread the word in the neighborhood about Dion’s proposal.
Local kids playing in front of homes in a neighborhood is a big part of community living, Rainville said. Roy Street is a lot different than Concord or Amherst streets, where the traffic moves much faster, she said.
Townsend said the riders get themselves and the equipment out of the way for any cars. They stop at around dusk, he said.
Dion’s proposal has the support of three other aldermen: Ward 5 Alderman David Lozeau, Alderman-at-Large Paula Johnson, and Alderman-at-Large David Rootovich. It is likely to get a favorable recommendation from the Infrastructure Committee, since Lozeau, Johnson and Dion sit on the five-member committee.
Dion noted that the change would not make it illegal to ride on sidewalks. And there are some 40 or so city parks for children to use safely, he added.
But Beardsley said most of the parks are not designed for skateboards. The two skateboard parks in the city, on Bridge Street and Pine Street, are too far away for her children to use, she said.