Even if skateboarding did nothing else, just getting young people outdoors and active is great. Riding a board on wheels and doing tricks strengthens muscles, improves balance and encourages friendships. Next year it will be an Olympic event.
Like so many activities, however, it’s not for everybody. And as recent events show, it’s not for every town either.
Linwood made a serious effort over the summer to determine whether building a city skate park was possible and desirable. It informally considered a few locations, narrowed them to one that looked best, estimated the costs, and then gauged local support and likely usage for such a park.
In the end, its Neighborhood Services Committee found a skate park would not be worth the money at this time. Linwood City Council said no to a skate park.
For a while it looked like Brigantine might let its existing skate park end. The city closed the park after the municipal insurer condemned it due to a broken gate, lack of staffing and cracked, sunken surfaces. Mayor Andy Simpson gave residents a last chance to show they wanted it repaired and reopened.
That they did, at the next council meeting. A neighbor of the skate park said she loves seeing parents and grandparents interacting with children there, and attested to their good behavior. After 10 spoke in favor of the park and no one wished to speak against it, Simpson said the city will look for the funding to restore the park.
Other towns have gone the other way. Galloway and Upper townships each had skate parks, and each closed them after skaters didn’t comply with the rules or people damaged the facilities. The thriving skate park in Ocean City is actually its second, having closed the first after it fell into disrepair.
These decisions couldn’t be more different, but all can be right for their place and time. It’s much like a family deciding whether to put in a pool or add a deck — weighing the costs against the benefits of using them, and listening to all family members to get an idea of what it might mean for them.
That’s democracy, at bottom a method for organizing the units of government so citizens get a chance to have input on decisions that might affect them.
It’s often not easy, even within a close family, and local municipalities deserve credit for finding their different paths to what’s appropriate for their residents — even as that is always changing.