By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Rand Park could become the permanent home of Montclair’s skate park.
The Township Council will discuss a resolution that would set a path to a permanent home for the skaters at the Tuesday night council meeting.
The township first opened up a temporary skate park at Rand in summer of 2020. Local skate clubs have described it as a valued space, even as they rally for investment in a permanent home. The council has also heard from neighbors upset by noise from skateboards hitting temporary wooden structures at Rand, eventually prompting updates to the park’s hours in May. Skate Essex has installed some sound barriers and has insulated the wooden equipment, but members say more permanent facilities are the best real solution.
Councilman Peter Yacobellis, who penned the resolution supporting the development and maintenance of a permanent skate park with Councilwoman Robin Schlager and Mayor Sean Spiller, said that making the project a priority has been challenging coming off of the pandemic, but that the success of the temporary park has warranted taking the next step. Montclair Local has not yet made contact with other council members for comment on whether they’re open to the resolution and pursuing a permanent park at Rand.
The resolution would allow for Skate Essex and the Township to begin soliciting grants, Yacobellis said. Skate Essex, which oversees the temporary park, is also close to becoming a 501(c)(3)-classified nonprofit organization to solicit private funding and grants.
After Skate Essex and the Montclair High School Skate club lobbied for years for a place to call home, last April the township agreed to dedicate two of the four tennis courts at Rand Park as a temporary space. There’s been broad support among council members for a permanent home, whether at Rand or elsewhere, but so far no plan presented.
“[The temporary park] is a proven concept at Rand Park. It’s a central location, near the high school. It’s become a popular spot,” Yacobellis said.
Yacobellis said Skate Essex had unofficially solicited concepts from three different skate park developers, who among them came up with nine different plans. All plans call for removal of the existing playground and handball court, while some include removal of all four tennis courts at the park. In that case, another two-hoop basketball court would be added to the existing two-hoop court.
“The playground is dilapidated, unsafe and underused. So is the handball court,” he said.
As for the removal of all tennis courts, Yacobellis said tennis enthusiasts have a multitude of other options at Glenfield, Brookdale and Mountainside parks, all of which house courts, and at private tennis clubs.
Yacobellis said the council should “go big” with a “mid-tier to high-tier” skate park. Township officials see the funding being split about evenly among club fundraising, the township capital budget and grants.
In the past, MHS club adviser Jamie Siwinski has cited costs of $45 to $65 per square foot for a skate park. Money can be found through grants from the Tony Hawk Foundation and the state’s Green Acres fund, he said.
In January, the group announced some help from skate park designer and Olympian Alexis Sablone, who will be creating skateable sculptures for the space.
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 Monday, 4,086 people had signed the petition.