Teenagers Joe and Keith Bonham had just begun to perfect their daredevil, skateboard antics on a new ramp in their back yard in Stafford County's Aquia Harbor neighborhood when the trouble began.

Their next-door neighbors claimed the ramp scared off two would-be buyers of their house and asked their parents to dismantle the structure. Then, the Aquia Harbor Property Owners Association revoked the Bonhams' swimming and tennis privileges as punishment.

The association now has sued to force their parents, Dan and Sue Bonham, and another family with a back-yard skateboard ramp a mile away to tear them down.

The fight over the skateboard ramps -- plywood, half-loop structures that allow skateboarders to ride to six- or seven-foot heights and do tight, 180-degree turns -- has been escalating for more than two years in Aquia Harbor, a community of more than 2,000 homes along the Potomac River.

To some, the ramps are noisy, unsightly nuisances. But to the skateboarding families, they are no worse than swing sets or basketball hoops and are symbols of their property rights.

The Bonhams and the other couple, O.W. and Doni Wright, believe the suit is a heavy-handed tactic just to resolve disagreements over playground equipment.

"They say we can't skateboard on the streets and now they say we can't skateboard in our own back yard," said Audie Wright, 15, who shares the ramp with his younger brother, Beau, 12, and his friends from the neighborhood.

"I think they want to make sure that they have all the power," Doni Wright said of the association.

Her family two years ago erected a skateboard ramp amids the trees of their back yard on Plymouth Drive. "I was very glad that we were served {with subpoenas for the suit} and that the matter was taken out of {the association's} hands" so it could be decided in court.

Sue Bonham contended that her family has not broken any rules, noting that basketball goals and large swing sets sprout up around the development all the time. "I am not so upset about the ramps," she said. "I'm upset that the democratic system doesn't work in my harbor."

The association, in its legal complaint against the Bonhams and the Wrights, said the community's covenants are clear in giving the association the power to regulate structures, such as the ramps, on individual properties. The homeowners group also said the Bonhams and the Wrights were given ample opportunity to present their sides of the story and to abide by the rules of the community. "We followed all of our procedures," said Fran Hopkins, executive secretary of Aquia Harbor.

The rumble over the ramps first began in March 1988, after the Wright family built the 35-foot-long ramp behind their house. Not long after, a neighbor, Edward Adegbite, complained about the noise to the Wrights and the association.

The Wrights, on the other hand, said that they designed and built the ramp so that it would not cause noise. Doni Wright's brother, a mechanical engineer trained at Rice University, designed the ramp and supervised its construction. Among its features is a layer of gypsum inserted to deaden the sound of the skateboarding.

Adegbite claims the design and extra noise-limiting measures were ineffective. "If you are on my deck, you cannot help but see it or hear it," he said. "It is embarrassing when you have company over." Adegbite said he made a couple modest attempts to sell his house, acting as his own agent and without advertising, but prospective buyers objected to the ramps.

After two meetings, the association's board of directors in the fall of 1988 ruled that the Wrights' ramp broke neighborhood rules and would have to be removed, which the Wrights refused to do.

A few months later, in March 1989, the Bonhams contemplated setting up their ramp. They asked their neighbors if they objected, and, when no one did, they built the ramp.

However, one of their immediate next-door neighbors, Bill and Kathy Grant, had yet to move in and thus were not among the people whom the Bonhams surveyed about the ramp.

The Grants soon put their house back on the market when they wanted to move closer to their work. But their real estate agent told them that the ramp was hampering the sale of their house.

At least two prospective buyers for the homes cited the ramps as reasons for passing over the house, the Grants said.

The Grants asked the Bonhams to remove the ramp, but the Bonhams refused.

"If it had been a big problem, and more people had complained, I would have taken the ramps down," Dan Bonham said. He noted that several other homes in the vicinity had sold, despite the presence of the ramp.

"But they weren't right next door," countered Kathy Grant.

The Grants acknowledge that the price at which they listed their house, $189,950, was probably too high because other houses on the block sold for about $20,000 less.

In the spring of 1989, the association's board held a town meeting on the skateboard-ramp dispute to assess community opinion. Of the 80 people who attended, the overwhelming majority voiced support for skateboard ramps.

But the board decided on its own that the number of people present was not representative of the community and in May 1989 issued a directive banning skateboard ramps, Hopkins said.

Last summer, the Bonhams and the Wrights had their privileges to the community pool and tennis courts revoked. "We told them their privileges would be restored if they cured the violations," Hopkins said.

But the ramps remained and the two families still can't swim or play tennis in the neighborhood.

In February, the homeowners association filed suit, requesting a Stafford County court to order the families to remove the ramps. Testimony is being collected in the case.