As some skate parks have become an asset to their towns, others have been shuttered due to safety reasons.
Skate parks in Ocean City and Atlantic City are making positive impacts in their communities, like bringing in skateboarders from around the region or simply enhancing the neighborhood. However, skate parks in Galloway Township and Brigantine have closed due to skateboarders not following safety protocol or infrastructure problems.
In Linwood, though, the idea of a skate park can’t seem to get off the ground.
Brigantine’s skate park, on Bayshore Avenue, was condemned Wednesday by the city’s insurance company due to cracked and sunken surfaces as well as a broken gate, according to Mayor Andrew “Andy” Simpson.
The city closed the park Thursday and put up a fence to block trespassers from entering the space, the mayor said. As of Friday afternoon, no “closed” signs or fencing was visible around the park.
If the city decides to keep the park, Simpson said numerous fixes would be needed before it could reopen. The park also would have to be staffed by an employee, the insurance company told Simpson.
The mayor said the city wants to hear from skateboarders on the island at the Oct. 16 city council meeting before it decides what to do with the space. He also wants to hear from pickleball players because reconstructing the space into a pickleball court is also an option.
“I want to be transparent with our skateboarding people,” he said. “I don’t see it being used that much because our kid population is dwindling, but I want to give them a chance.”
In Linwood, after months of comments by residents for and against the idea of building a skate park, an effort that has gone before the board three times, city council last week voted against moving forward with one.
Linwood City Council was previously divided on whether a skate park would enhance the city’s recreation options without a major financial impact. The Neighborhood Services Committee submitted its report to council Sept. 13 recommending the city not move forward. The proposed park would have cost more than $100,000 to construct and would be located near the hockey rinks at All Wars Memorial Park.
“There are more pressing needs at this time in the city. Beyond the construction of the skate park at approximately $40 to $45 per square foot, also considered is the cost for fencing, maintenance, proper drainage and field preparations, lighting and the possibility of needing a paid attendant at the park,” committee chairwoman June Byrnes said in her report to council.
A skate park attendant would cost the city $30,000 to $40,000 annually.
“There are no grants for that. There is no way for the city to absorb that cost,” said Council President Ralph Paolone.
Lawrence Lhulier, who said he previously served on the city’s Planning Board for 25 years, is “anti-skate park” but “not against the clientele or the kids.”
For him, the park is a “double issue,” the cost to build it and the cost to maintain it. He also sees an issue with the location.
“Based on the proximity where the skate park would be, somewhere near the bike path, it would quickly be accessible to residents in Linwood, Northfield and Somers Point,” he said. “I think the costs shouldn’t just be on Linwood, but Northfield and Somers Point as well.”
Galloway Township opened a 20,000-square-foot skate park on East Jimmie Leeds Road in 2004 but closed it in 2012 due to skaters not complying with safety rules, The Press previously reported.
Galloway Mayor Anthony Coppola did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Ocean City’s skate park opened on Asbury Avenue in 2015 after popular demand, said Doug Bergen, a spokesman for the city. The park cost $750,000 to construct with $500,000 of that coming from a Cape May County open space/recreation grant. About $30,000 is spent annually on staffing the park with a Recreation Department attendant, according to Michael Allegretto, Community Services Director.
Years ago, the city had a temporary skate park near the Boardwalk that fell into disrepair, “and there was a lot of outcry to bring it back,” Bergen said.
The skate park in Atlantic City on Sovereign Avenue has gained support from the community since opening in April, according to Zach Katzen, vice president of Skate AC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing neighborhoods in the city through its public skate park. The park cost about $25,000 to build with funds from a GoFundMe account, donations from the construction company that built the park and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.
The park was donated to the city after it was built, Katzen said. It is not staffed and is maintained by skateboarders using the park and the city’s Recreation Department.
“We always knew there was a need for a skate park. Since we were young, we didn’t have a place to skate,” Katzen said. “The skate community was pushing for it for the past 10 years.”
Having a recreational space, like the skate park, gives children an outlet as well as a support system that they may not have had previously, he said.