By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
After a neighbor of the skatepark at Rand Park reported a large accumulation of trash inside the park Tuesday morning, the Montclair High School Skate Club says it will work with township officials and skaters themselves on keeping the place tidier.
Neighbor Zach Williams took photos of the tennis courts, which for a year have served as a temporary home for skateboarders. The images show overflowing trash and recycling, popcorn strewn about, and a stack of about a half a dozen broken-up chairs.
Williams says he enjoys watching the camaraderie of the kids, who he feels seldom cause problems, and has attended their events, but said he was not a “fan” of the condition of the park Tuesday morning.
Posting to the Secret Montclair Facebook group, he wrote: “How can we ensure this doesn’t keep happening? Not looking for a fight here, but want people that are not from this neighborhood to understand why there is some pushback.”
He told Montclair Local that the park being left untidy isn’t a regular occurrence, but it wasn’t the first time the skaters had left trash around the park.
“It doesn’t look good,” he said. “They should have some self accountability. This is my neighborhood.”
Within a few hours of Montclair Local reaching out to Skate Essex and the Montclair High School Skate Club, the club’s adviser, Jamie Siwinski, said he and some students went over cleaned up the park.
Siwinski said the group holds cleanups every five to six weeks, with the last one on April 25.
Referring to the park as a “DIY space,” he said the kids have been resilient in seeking out recycling bins, a trash can and even seating that the township has not provided.
He said the township doesn’t pick up recycling or trash from those bins. The refuse is taken care of on cleanup days.
“There’s a need for clarification about where garbage should be placed to be picked up by the town sanitation,” Siwinski said, adding there is only one garbage can in the park. “We need to figure out whether sanitation [workers] will go inside the fence to empty the recycling and garbage can, or who is responsible for bringing it outside the fence.”
Williams did give the kids credit for recycling, as that bin was overflowing. With the warmer weather and more people coming to skate, which means more water bottles filling up the recycling, he said, they may need to have cleanups more often.
Township officials have not yet returned an email sent Tuesday asking how trash pickup or cleanup has been handled for the park.
As for the broken chairs, Swinski said: “Random chairs tend to show up after bulk waste days. While I admire the DIY spirit of recycling these items, these are things that don’t have much life left in them that the kids are recycling. So, after a few weeks of sitting out in the sun and rain, they fall apart and get piled up by the entry where the recycling and garbage can are located.”
The group will be reaching out to the township to ask for benches, Swinski said.
In the spring, neighbors surrounding the skatepark saiid they had reached their limit with the amount of the noise the skatepark created — and argued a year was too long for a temporary skatepark to be in place without noise mitigation. Several township officials have said they support creating a permanent park for skaters, but no plans have yet been adopted.
In May, neighbors said the noise created from the skateboards hitting the temporary structures was “unbearable” and called for officials to reduce the hours at the park, which had been 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Township Council first proposed reducing the hours from 84 hours a week to 76 a week during the summer months, when the neighbors said they wanted to enjoy their backyards. They ultimately settled on a schedule of 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. year-round, or 77 hours a week. The skaters had argued that the skatepark hours should be consistent with other township park hours.
In attempts to mitigate the sound, Skate Essex has installed some sound barriers and has insulated the temporary wooden equipment.
“I haven’t heard, no pun intended, how well they are working, but for now it’s meant to be a temporary fix until we figure out where the permanent park will be. I have no update yet as to where that might be, but hopefully soon,” Councilwoman Robin Schlager, who has been working on getting a permanent park in town, said.
Schlager said she was surprised to see the photo with the trash.
“The skaters have been pretty diligent about cleaning their space,” she said.