By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
A change in hours to Montclair’s temporary skate park could be tabled in order to allow for more discussion between the skaters and the neighbors who surround the park.
On April 20, the Township Council voted on first reading for an ordinance that would change the hours of the temporary skate park, housed in two tennis courts at Rand Park, to give neighbors some relief from noise they say the skate park generates.
The park’s hours would be cut back from the current 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. June through September, they’d be 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.
But according to both neighbors and skaters, the town has already implemented the new hours and began locking up the skate park between the hours of 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. But Katya Wowk, a spokesperson for the township, said if that’s the case, it was done in error.
The ordinance needs another vote on second reading in order to pass, which was expected to take place May 4. The ordinance would then need another 20 days to take effect.
But Councilman Peter Yacobellis, who introduced the ordinance on April 20, said that after speaking with skaters and Skate Essex club officials, concerns have been raised that the hours are not equitable with other parks.
“I intend to make a motion to table it in order for the council to have more time to consider a large volume of feedback we’re receiving from residents opposed to the changes,” Yacobellis told Montclair Local.
According to current township code, parks are closed between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., while Carey’s Woods in Nishuane, the Mountainside Nature Center Trail and the Alonzo F. Bonsal Wildlife Preserve close at sundown.
Montclair High School senior and skater Olivia Karny said those who’ve come to depend on the park feel “kicked out of the one space” dedicated to their sport.
“While people can play lacrosse or basketball till 10, they lock us out at,” Karny said. “We just want to engage in our sport.”
The group is looking for hours of 8 a.m. to sundown in order for skaters to use the park before and after school and work, said Karny.
But for some families that live near the skate park, the reduction in hours was expected to give some relief.
Nicole Rubin of North Fullerton Avenue called into an April 20 council meeting saying she couldn’t sleep with her windows open at night because of the noise. Karen Janifer, whose backyard abuts the tennis courts, told the council that skaters are sometimes there until midnight, with music playing.
And some say that the tennis courts, and Rand Park altogether, is not the right spot for a skate park.
“Changing the hours [from 84 hours a week to 76 a week], does not address the issue that the town gave permission for skateboarders to use tennis courts for a quote ‘temporary’ skate park, and with absolutely no noise mitigation. It’s the township’s responsibility to address the noise nuisance,” Rubin told Montclair Local.
Skate Essex, which supports skaters throughout the county and has been advocating for a permanent park, recently did some noise mitigation by insulating the decks and ramps, but Janifer and Rubin say they haven’t noticed a difference.
Joann Somers, who is an avid tennis player and a frequent user of the courts, said she stopped going due to the noise.
“Tennis is a quiet sport. You need quiet to think on the courts,” Somers said.
Rubin said that the neighbors are all for the group getting a “great skate park,” but not at the cost of the neighbors, and believe the town should look at locations.
“I believe this is the only park with tennis courts only 20 feet from homes,” she added.
Skateboarders continue to push for a permanent park, and held a rally over the weekend pushing for one. Where that park will be located remains to be seen, but officials have said that Rand Park seems like a top contender.