By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
The Township Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to adopt a resolution supporting a permanent skate park at Rand Park, which has housed a temporary spot for the skaters for more than a year. In that time, officials have broadly agreed a permanent park should be in Montclair’s future, but the location has remained an open question.
No specific plan was presented at the meeting. And the resolution does not set aside township funds for the park, but sets a path to allow the township and volunteer group Skate Essex, which has been maintaining the temporary park, to seek grant funding.
The township first opened up its temporary skate park at Rand in the 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. Skate Essex has installed some sound barriers and has insulated the wooden equipment, but members say more permanent facilities are the best real solution.
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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 a permanent, concrete skate park designed by professionals would allow for sound mitigation.
No residents called into Tuesday’s council meeting to object to the resolution.
Yacobellis said that making the project a priority has been challenging coming off of the coronavirus pandemic, but that the success of the temporary park has warranted taking the next step.
Paul King, a founding board member of Skate Essex, said the resolution is the next big step to “putting a stake in the ground for a much-requested permanent home for the Olympic sport of skateboarding right in our town.”
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.
Schlager, who moved to have the council vote on the resolution on Tuesday rather than wait until its next meeting on July 20, said Skate Essex has some grant opportunities “coming up quick” that it plans to apply for. The resolution had originally been placed on the July 13 agenda as a discussion-only item.
Jamie Siwinski, a Montclair High School Skate Club adviser and English teacher, said, “We could not be more thrilled that Montclair has heard the multiyear rallying cry of skaters young and old to build a safe home for skateboarders at Rand Park. It’s going to be amazing to have a permanent space with concrete bowls, ramps and ledges that skaters of all abilities will be able to enjoy.!”
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 as a temporary space.
“[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 told Montclair Local 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 as well.
“The playground is dilapidated, unsafe and underused. So is the handball court,” Yacobellis said.
As for the removal of all tennis courts, tennis enthusiasts have a multitude of other options, at Glenfield, Brookdale and Mountainside parks, all of which house courts, and at private tennis clubs, he said.
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, 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.
Mayor Sean Spiller said the park could cost anywhere from $1 million to $3 million depending on how big they go. He said the resolution will also allow for the town to apply for county and public funds.
Antonello Terrana, president of the high school skate club, said the resolution for a permanent park will make Montclair skateboarders feel confident that the town “has their back.”
“With a new concrete skate park, improving the current state of the space, the sport of skateboarding will be able to thrive and grow in Montclair,” he said.
In January, skate park proponents 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 skate club at the high school joined forces in 2019 to petition for a permanent space for skaters. As of Monday, 4,086 people had signed the petition.