By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
A year after Montclair allowed a temporary skate park to be set up in two of its Rand Park tennis courts, some neighbors say the noise created from the skateboards hitting the temporary structures is “unbearable.”
Meanwhile, skateboarders continue to push for a permanent park, with a rally planned this weekend.
To alleviate some of the noise, the Township Council is considering changing the hours of the skate park, currently 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
It passed a first reading April 20 of a measure that would set the hours in June through September to 9 a.m to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. October through May, the hours would be 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
The measure was scheduled for a public hearing and possible vote May 4.
“We can’t sleep with our windows open at night,” North Fullerton Avenue resident Nicole Rubin told the council on April 20. “I understand you are changing the hours from 84 hours a week to 76 a week during the summer, but that does not address the overarching issue that the town gave permission for skateboarders to use tennis courts for a quote ‘temporary’ skate park, but that temporary skate park has been there for more than a year and with absolutely no noise mitigation.”
Karen Janifer, who lives on Forest Street, told the council that skaters are sometimes there until midnight, with music playing.
“Changing hours won’t help. They don’t respect the hours now,” said Janifer, adding that the temporary equipment is not suitable to mitigate the noise.
Currently signs posted state the hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and that users have a maximum of one hour of skate time. The maximum number of skaters is five at one time, and they are advised not to congregate.
Township Manager Tim Stafford said the hours could be enforced by locking the park down at night and reopening it in the morning. But Mark Janifer, Karen’s husband, said the hours are still too long, and that “residents need a break.”
Councilman Peter Yacobellis said that equipment is being augmented to reduce the “ricocheting” noise the hollow temporary equipment creates when a skateboard hits it.
Because the ramps and jumps are hollow, they echo, Paul King of Skate Essex said.
Three other pushes in the last 17 years to get a permanent skate park failed. But Skate Essex and the Skateboard Club at Montclair High School joined forces in 2019 to petition for a permanent space for skaters. As of Tuesday, April 27, that petition had collected 3,774 signatures.
King said he met with Mark and Karen Janifer and Rubin at the end of March and early April to address the noise concerns.
“We identified that the wooden ramps with metal transition pieces was one area where we could make a difference with sound mitigation. The wooden ramps are hollow inside with open backs, causing a drumlike amplification of sound. And the metal transition piece reverberates off of the surface,” King said.
He said that sound mitigation has already begun.
Skate Essex consulted with skate park designer and Olympian Alexis Sablone, who visited the park in January and will be creating some skateable sculptures for the space. The suggestions they implemented included placing rubber liners underneath the metal transition pieces, rigid foam insulation inside the wooden ramps and closing the back of the ramps with additional wood. Skate Essex donated the $400 in materials.
The Janifers are also in the process of researching an acoustic blocking material, used to mitigate the sound on pickleBall courts, with the hope of its being installed by the township on the fencing. And the installation of the Alexis Sablone concrete skateable sculptures, for which the township has committed to pay $10,000, will also help with the noise, King said.
“Ultimately, a professionally designed concrete skate park is the solution,” he said.
There will be a “Push for the Park” rally at the Rand courts on Saturday, May 1, at noon for a permanent concrete skate park.
King said ideally, a permanent skate park would have 24,000 to 31,000 square feet and be centrally located. He said Rand Park has the space and is the ideal location.
MHS club adviser Jamie Siwinski said skate park costs could run $45 to $65 per square foot. He said there is money to be found through grants from the Tony Hawk Foundation and the state’s Green Acres fund.
Skate Essex will hold a “Push for the Park Rally”, starting at 11:30 a.m. on May 1 at Watchung Plaza. The group will then move to Rand Park on North Fullerton Avenue, the site of Montclair’s temporary skatepark, at noon where a speaking program will take place. The rally will focus on establishing a permanent skatepark in Montclair. Members of the skating community, local officials and parents and kids will be speaking at the rally, with music curated by Terry’s Serendipity Cafe.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the Township Council voted to change the skate park’s hours. The township passed a first reading of a measure to change the hours; a hearing and possible final vote on the measure is scheduled for May 4.
This post has also been updated to clarify seasonal changes in the proposed hours.