We thought it interesting that when Atlantic City dismantled an ad-hoc skate park on city property a few weeks ago, local politicians reacted strongly, while the skaters were blasé.
Skaters cobble together grind boxes, ramps and such — typically homemade or salvaged — in lots of places that don’t belong to them, knowing sooner or later, they will get taken apart or broken up, or just fall into disrepair. Doing stuff outside normal channels is part of skating’s characteristic spirit.
Jason Klotz, the millennial who started the ad-hoc park a few years ago, probably was surprised it lasted this long. He saw the turn of events as a positive, probably leading to a new, better and authorized skate park. That would be good and we too think it’s likely.
Skaters were lucky their facility was destroyed during a mayoral race. Officials lamented the sudden taking of something from the kids and immediately started arguing over who was to blame, ensuring a level of attention seldom given to skaters or ad-hoc parks.
Incumbent Mayor Don Guardian blamed the state, which controls much in the city since November’s takeover. Rival candidate Councilman Frank Gilliam blamed Guardian, and the state Department of Community Affairs sort of supported that, saying city staff saw the park wasn’t safe and took steps to dismantle it. But the DCA immediately added that takeover leader Jeffrey Chiesa supports removing the unauthorized and unsafe park. Councilman Cheun “Jimmy” Cheng also called the skate equipment “dangerous.”
Whatever city officials thought about the ad-hoc skate facility the past three years — if they thought about it at all — they soon reached the inevitable position for a municipality that an unauthorized, makeshift and therefore uninsurable park was unacceptable … on city property, anyway.
Best of all, the one thing everyone agreed from the start was skaters should have a new, proper skate park. Klotz seemed to see the opportunity right away.
Without a word of regret for his dismantled work, he looked forward: “Luckily, the mayor and everybody here in City Hall are in full support of skateboarding in Atlantic City and they’re working with me to get a plaza for the city.” He already has raised some money and presented a plan to City Council.
Skating has been a favored recreation for millennials for years, so a skate park would fit nicely with the city’s young-adult-friendly reinvention.
But skateboarding isn’t just for teens and 20-somethings anymore. About 40 years into the skating era, multiple generations carve and trick at well-equipped municipal parks, including those in Sea Isle City, Ocean City and North Wildwood.
We’d like to see an Atlantic City skate park built, and we’d like to see something concrete before the November election.