When Jason Forslund looks at the vacant lot on Arctic Avenue next to The Wave parking garage, he imagines the space filled with skateboarders and BMX bikers practicing tricks — and maybe even a professional or two leading a demonstration on a weekend.
It’s taken two years, but the 26-year-old Ventnor resident’s vision of a professionally built skate park in the heart of the city now appears within reach as the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority voted last week to support plans for the park, an estimated $850,000 venture. The parcel that’s been under consideration measures about one-third of an acre and borders Tanger Outlets The Walk.
“It would be a really good fit here. It’s safe; it’s by the train station; it’s right at the entrance to the city,” Forslund said. “If they go through with this it shows that (CRDA officials) are really understanding what art, and culture, and athleticism can do for this city.”
Still, as CRDA voted to back the project last week, the approval came with a caveat: Don’t get too set on the location.
CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri said the authority fully supports the concept of a skate park in the city, but as the project was vetted through a committee process some asked if the property — owned by CRDA and already in the heart of a thriving commercial area — might be better suited for additional commercial development. Other potential locations within the Tourism District for the park could be brought back to the board next month, he said.
“I frankly don’t know that we’ll find a suitable alternative because part of the deal is to find a location where there’s some activity. We don’t want it to be stuck in some corner of an unused part of the city,” Palmieri said.
The lot currently under consideration is assessed at $572,000 and was acquired by the CRDA between 1996 and 2005. Details of the final planned phase of the outlets were released last year as Cordish Companies, which owns the development rights to the final phase, announced it would bring Bass Pro Shops to the city. Officials have said properties bordering the existing footprint of the outlets could easily be developed with additional retail.
Forslund said he understands that skate parks aren’t moneymakers but what they bring to an area can’t necessarily be measured in dollars. North Wildwood currently offers one of the nearest professionally designed parks, and skaters and bikers will often travel long distances on weekends to practice their craft.
“It’s a surprise to most people that there hasn’t ever been a skate park here,” he said. “Location is key though. If you moved this thing even five blocks away, I could see parents saying, there’s no way I’m taking you there.”
A local tattoo artist with a passion for skateboarding and surfing, Forslund and the local skateboarding community have been lobbying for the park even before CRDA adopted a Tourism District Master Plan last year saying that skate parks would be a good fit in the district. He founded the Atlantic City Skateboarding Association, has handed out stickers on the Boardwalk and sold T-shirts to garner interest. A Facebook page he developed has registered more than 1,800 followers in two years.
Palmieri said officials recognize the benefit the park could have in the city and have considered safety factors such as increased lighting, proper management, and even stationing ambassadors nearby to ensure patrons could safely cross streets.
Forslund is one of a number of nearby residents who have pointed out that the city is lacking in recreational activities for young people. Atlantic City resident Ernest Conner also recently attended a CRDA meeting and called on the board to consider a roller skating facility in the city.
“Here, we have nothing to do, no place to go and no options. That’s when wrong begins to look right,” Conner said.
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