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Future Uncertain for Chatham Skate Park

The township's insurance company demanded the town close the skate park until it can be renovated, which could be up to $100,000.

The Chatham Skate Park could close permanently without up to $100,000 in renovations.

Department of Public Works Director John Pacelli said the skate park will need a new deck, fasteners and intense renovations before the insurance company, which closed the park in August because it was structurally compromised, will allow it to reopen.

"Unless we remove everything, [renovations] won't work," Pacelli said.

The park has halfpipes and equipment which can be used by both skateboarders and inline skaters. Original costs of the park in 2003 were about $200,000, about half of which was raised by volunteers. The rest was contributed by the township.

Pacelli estimated the park would need between $36,000 and $40,000 in materials, plus manpower. "And that's assuming we don't find other problems," he said. "Once we start taking the stuff apart, I don't know what we're going to find."

Township Administrator Thomas E. Ciccarone disagreed on the potential cost. "I think John is being conservative," he said. He put the costs between $50,000 and $100,000, "and even that might be conservative," he said.

Pacelli said renovating the township will have to renovate the park again and again, since the life of the asphalt and other materials is only about eight years. "We'll be faced with this problem year after year," he said.

Pacelli also said he believed attendance at the park had declined in recent years, but two Chatham residents disagreed. Mimi Mehta of Chatham Township said her son Michael, a sophomore at Chatham High School, uses the park frequently.

"It provides a great source of recreation," Mehta said.

Committee Member Robert Gallop asked how the township could track use of the skate park. Skating, he said, "is not a team sport. How are we going to know?"

Mary Rohe of Chatham Borough said her three boys used the park frequently. "I've seen a real range of ages and activities there," she said.

Michael said he uses the park two to four times a week, weather permitting. The nearest skate parks are Livingston’s park and GardenSK8 Indoor Skatepark in Pine Brook, a 25- and 40-minute drive from his home, respectively.

"I think outside use has gone down, but Chatham use has gone up," Michael said, speaking of his experiences at the park and the people he meets there. "I think it's more like 50 percent use from Chatham now."

Rohe and Mehta said they would begin to collect signatures for a petition to save the skate park. Rohe also suggested the township "reach out through the schools" to assess local interest.

"Before tabling this, at least take the pulse of the community," she said to the board.

Mayor Nicole Hagner agreed to look into the interest and cost of renovating the skate park, possibly as a shared service with Chatham Recreation. 

Committee Member Laura Ali Nonnenmacher said the Chatham Athletic Foundation might also be willing to help.

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