HONG KONG IS to have two new skate parks later this year, but there are already concerns that rules governing the facilities will be too tough and they may put off the very people they aim to attract. Some skateboarders are also worried that once these new venues are complete, the authorities will clamp down on skateboarding in public areas. The parks, to be built in Chai Wan and Lai Chi Kok and managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), are scheduled to open around August or September and at the end of the year respectively. They are the results of almost a decade of lobbying from local skateboarders who have been asking the authorities to provide venues for the ever-growing community. It is estimated that there are about 30,000 skateboarders in Hong Kong. At the moment, most hang out outside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui or the Immigration Tower in Wan Chai. However, despite the construction of the new skate parks, skateboarders are worried that strict rules, such as the wearing of helmets and knee and elbow pads, would put people off. The LCSD based rules of its new parks on the YMCA's King's Park Centenary Centre skate park in Yau Ma Tei as well as overseas skate parks. Veteran Warren Stuart says previously many [skateboarders] did not like to go to the YMCA skate park because of the strict regulations. 'Helmets are necessary as head injuries can cost lives. But wearing elbow and knee pads should be optional because wearing them doesn't help much,' he says. 'They can't protect you from breaking your arms and legs and they hinder the movement of your legs.' Skateboarders point out that since the YMCA skate park relaxed its rules regarding elbow and knee pads recently, more of them have been going there. The new 1,600-square-metre skate park in Lai Chi Kok Park and the 650-square-metre one adjacent to the Chai Wan Swimming Pool will feature ramps, mogul courses and simulated street areas with flat bar rails and concrete ledges. Stuart, who has been skateboarding for more than 16 years, believes there will be a lot of 'trial and error' when the skate parks open. '[The LCSD] is very experienced in managing tennis courts, sports centres and other sporting facilities, but it hasn't had any experience in overseeing a skate park and does not know much about skateboarding, which is still a young underground sport,' he says. 'Unlike other sports, there are no rules in skateboarding. That's why skateboarding is so popular among youngsters - it's a creative sport.' In other words, the government faces a tricky situation as many young skateboarders do not want to be told what to do. The Hang Out youth centre in Kwun Tong, however, has found a way around this. The subsidary of the non-government welfare organisation Youth Outreach set up skateboarding facilities on its premises last year. Other than signing a consent form acknowledging that they are skateboarding at their own risk, users of these facilities are not governed by any rules. So far, there have been no serious injuries. The centre's social worker, Lai Wai-lun, says: 'When [skateboarders] use high-risk facilities such as quarter-pipes and perform difficult moves, they usually put on protective gear.' But with the two new skate parks comes concerns that the government is trying to exercise control over the skateboarders. 'The government may not allow us to skate in the streets anymore,' Stuart says. 'The fact is that there are so many skateboarders in Hong Kong, and the skating facilities are not enough.' He adds that some skateboarders outside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre were told to leave. 'When I went to the Cultural Centre last Sunday afternoon, there were about nine security guards whose job was to chase away [skateboarders]. 'They were not there to [pick up] pick-pockets ... It's ridiculous.'