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Editorial

Rinks: Beware of slippery neighbors

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For fans of backyard ice skating, it’s discouraging enough that the winter of 2011-12 has been all but canceled. Yet when local authorities, perhaps prodded by the occasional censorious neighbor, go after owners of now-useless backyard rinks, they’re not just adding insult to would-be skaters’ injury; they’re also eroding the kind of mutual tolerance that’s needed to preserve peace and harmony in a densely settled region.

Four years ago, a man was reported to Brookline authorities by a neighbor concerned that his unfrozen rink might lead to, among other things, West Nile infection. This winter, Cambridge resident Gavin Peters put up a rink in his backyard, from a kit he ordered from the Internet, in the hope of seeing 40 or more days of skating. That hasn’t happened. And as the Globe reported Friday, Peters came home recently to learn that a city inspector had concerns “regarding your pool.’’ He was subsequently cited for six violations of building, zoning, and sanitary codes. To its credit, the city relented in the end.

Still, it’s unsettling that Peters was ever at risk of a fine, and that the presence of harmless rinks - frozen or not - in private citizens’ backyards should arouse opposition from neighbors. Even if they can’t bring themselves to root for cold weather, they should at least give each other the benefit of the doubt.

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