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Vandalized signs linked to bored kids

(ran East edition)

The Amberly Park sign was in place for only six months when it appeared that someone viciously and repeatedly kicked it from behind. The sign collapsed and the brick pillar toppled.

Three weeks earlier people living in Tampa Palms' Nottingham community found that their monument sign bore only the letters o,t,t,i and m. Somebody swiped the others.

Vandalism appears on the rise in Tampa Palms, and supervisors for the neighborhood's taxing district, which must repair the damage, have had enough.

"We've had a lot of it lately, and it's pretty ugly," said taxing district consultant Maggie Wilson as she displayed photos at last week's meeting.

"These aren't people from Lake City or Orlando coming to our neighborhood to knock our letters off. These are our kids. It's bored kids."

That accusation didn't settle well with some of the parents who read a recent Tampa Palms newsletter urging them to keep an eye on their children. The taxing district office received several calls and e-mails complaining that "people are watching our children and looking at them funny," Wilson said.

Some are convinced that the vandalism is a symptom of a bigger problem: Not enough parks and recreation to keep New Tampa kids occupied.

The city and Hillsborough County parks departments have plans to build various parks and rec centers in New Tampa, but many think those future projects will be too little, too late.

"This is one more issue where we're going to get the short shrift from the city out here in New Tampa," said district board member Randy Marlowe.

He suggested perhaps Tampa Palms residents should take matters in their own hands, building their own parks and then asking the city to pay them back. A skate park seems to be in high demand in Tampa Palms, as mysterious ramps and half-pipes seem to be popping up in unauthorized places, but Marlowe said the community should consider everything from water parks to batting cages.

The taxing district board members agreed to investigate the parks idea further, but a couple felt that residents shouldn't have to pay.

"The city owes us these parks," board member Bill Shimer said, "and it should fund them."

Emily Nipps can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or nipps@sppimes.com.

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