Skateboarders are everywhere in Bel Air these days, sailing off stone ledges and rolling slowly down paved roads, and opinions abound as to the extent to which their behavior is innocent fun or unnecessarily dangerous and destructive.
Although skateboarding is technically illegal in most of Bel Air -- Section 12-326 of city law states: "Skateboards, in-line skates, [R]ollerblades or other similar devices shall not be operated within the commercially or industrially zoned districts or in any playground or parkland or recreation area unless that area has been specifically designated" -- most proprietors seem to care only when the skating directly interferes with day-to-day operations.
"I don't have a problem with it [skating] if it's after hours," said Kristina Combs, a customer services representative for the Forest Hill State Bank on South Bond Street.
Combs said she gets occasional complaints from customers about near-accidents or collisions. "I just don't want to see people hurt during business hours. ... If they get hurt, we're liable," she said, adding that there have been no such accidents at the bank.
Mary Goodman, owner of the Center Barbershop near the Skatology Board Shop on Thomas Street, was even more sympathetic to skateboarders.
"There's not a heck of a lot to do," she said. "They have to do something." Some people at the Main Street shopping center, another popular skateboarding site, suggested the fault lay elsewhere.
Wawa manager Madiha Dudley said she never had a problem with skateboarders.
"I don't know why people complain," she said. "They're just kids."
But not everyone is supportive.
David Moser, owner of Peppi's Meats on Thomas Street, said he was counting the days until a skater whizzing down the street collides with a car.
"One day they are going to run down the middle of the street and get killed," he said.
Edward Hopkins, spokesman for the Harford County Sheriff's Office, said encounters with skateboarders have not been serious.
Hopkins said that no one has been fined for skateboarding and that skateboarders have been cooperative when stopped by officers.
Bel Air Deputy Chief of Police Norman Ross also said there were few problems with skateboarders. He did, however, attribute damage to a window sill on Main Street and a concrete ledge on Atwood Street to skaters. "It's a problem when they encroach on people's property," he said.