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Skate Park's Fate to be Determined

Two local women lead the fight to save the park.

Mimi Mehta and Mary Rohe are determined to save the  Chatham Skate Park, which has been closed since August on the advice of the township's insurance provider.

The skate park's future is listed as a discussion item on the agenda for the Jan. 31 Chatham Township Committee meeting. The committee will determine whether to contribute to repairs for the park or to close the park permanently.

Department of Public Works Director John Pacelli said the skate park needs a new asphalt deck, fasteners and intense renovations, all of which he said could cost between $50,000 and $100,000.

Mehta and Rohe say the cost of the repairs will be much lower. They estimate between $15,000 and $25,000 is needed, an amount they hope to get from the committee.

"We've come up with a plan to repair the existing ramps, and cover the asphalt with a special acrylic coating," Mehta said. The coating is designed for the acrylic wheels found on skateboards and skates, and has been used in Hillsborough and Edison, she said.

The original cost of the park was about $200,000, which was raised partly through donations and partly from the township. Local residents spearheaded the effort to get the skate park opened in 2003.

"It provides a great source of recreation," Mehta said at a September meeting of the Chatham Township Committee.

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

In October they started an online petition, which has so far garnered 192 signatures. Signatories include residents of the Chathams, Madison, Florham Park, Short Hills, Bernardsville, New Providence, Berkeley Heights and Watchung, as well as other states and countries.

"Skaters and non-skaters alike--local kids who use the park, parents of young children, residents who don’t have skating family members but believe in the value of the park--see the benefit of having the skate park in our community," Mehta wrote in a press statement.

Mehta also cited a study published in a 2010 edition of Journal of Adolescent Research, which says skate parks promote social skills and civic responsibility. 

Mayor Nicole Hagner was not immediately available for comment.

TED GODFREY January 22, 2013 at 10:11 PM
Why should chatham's subsidize out of towner's to use skate park?
Sir January 23, 2013 at 01:41 AM
The same reason we subsidize out of towners to use our otehr athletic fields roads, parks, etc.
Grandma Cares January 23, 2013 at 12:44 PM
CLOSE THE SKATE PARK!!!! Basketball courts would be more appreciated and used by more people and our children. What benefit is it to any resident to have skate boarders on our sidewalks? Why should Township people pay for the injuries to outsiders? If a parent cares so much about their children having fun, maybe play with them?
justanobservation January 23, 2013 at 02:30 PM
Basketball courts sound like a great idea!
Hugs January 23, 2013 at 03:05 PM
Charge a fee! Instead of the taxpayers footing the huge bill in maintenance, charge a fee. All the Rec sports in town charge a usage and/or maintenance fee. The tennis courts at Chatham Middle School charge almost $75 to access so why not do similar with the skateboard park? Paying $100k every 10-15 years is too much.
Shannon Mary Sullivan January 23, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Keep the skate park. Fix it up so that kids can have supervised play and they can do something they enjoy and not having a skate park can cause kids skatboarding on streets because they have no where else to go and they can get run over by cars. It is safer for children to be in a closed environmnet where they know and the parents know that they are safe, happy, and to parents, having supervised play and exercise.
Ron Swanson January 23, 2013 at 06:38 PM
So Pacelli says $50-100k and the park advocates say $15-25k needed for repairs. That's a huge variance. What's the right number? Also, while this could be viewed as a community asset, asking the town to pay for a park used by a very specific group of users and not broadly by the community is a tough ask. Some sort of fund raising needs to be put in place to maintain this thing. It cost $200k to build and is not even 10 years old. Now it needs tens of thousands more in repairs. That's not a good investment of public dollars.
grandma cares January 23, 2013 at 07:26 PM
Would you like me to supervise your kids? If you are not supervising them at the skate park who is? I SAY NO!!!! I do not want the skate park.I do not want to pay someone to supervise your children. I think that it was a irresponsible administration that allowed the skate park in the first place! You have got to be kidding me. How many kids brake their arms on skateboards? Its like trampolines, if you have a trampoline your insurance company needs to be notified because there is a high risk of injuries. I do not have trampoline because of this reason. I do not want the skate park for a similar reason. Children are not supposed to brake bones. It happens but as responsible parents [and grandparents] we have a responsibility to try make sure it does not happen . I know you have to agree with me on this. I also noticed one of these parents does not live in the township,whose money are they trying to spend?
justanobservation January 23, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Again, basketball courts have a much broader appeal for all age groups (from kids to adults), are relatively easy to maintain, and while some do get hurt occasionally, don't pose the same danger of physical injury as skateboards do. It's a win-win.
TED GODFREY January 24, 2013 at 05:16 AM
yes as residents we pay for tennis courts access and yet we give free access to skate park for people from all over state huh? and insurance costs?
KenD January 24, 2013 at 02:16 PM
$100,000 is a lot and I seriously question the cost/benefits of such an investment. If the investment is made then what are the expected future costs? Right now it appears to be about $10,000 per year plus insurance. Is this money coming out of the Rec Budget and from what I read is it solely borne by the Township? Having the skate park is an asset to the community and provides a good environment for kids, but in this day and age cost is an issue. As an aside, I wouldn't think the skate park has a significantly higher injury rate than basketball (I have no stats to back that statement up). Every serious injury I ever had was through basketball and I skateboarded a lot.
TCG January 31, 2013 at 06:47 PM
In a town with 13,000 residents, raising $100K would require each resident to part with under $10 each. There are other ways to keep the park open. A combination of private and town funding, having the park repairs underwritten by advertisers and local sponsors and on and on. It is a great facility and it's used often by a wide variety of kids - most of whom do not play traditional sports like basketball. To close the skate park over a matter of so little money (in the big picture) is shortsighted at best. Wait...maybe if we can get a cell phone tower on the property...nevermind.
Tons of Toys January 31, 2013 at 09:11 PM
We Love the idea of a Fun and Fair Skate Park! At Tons of Toys we are now carrying some of the top of the line Skateboards. Like basketball, baseball, tennis, etc. skateboarding is a great sport that is known to keep kids active, which is a topical national initiative and we are excited and hopeful to see the park reopen!
Sir January 31, 2013 at 09:32 PM
I agree TCG - and I'll add that Garndma needs to stay in her rocker, or maybe she is off of her rocker. It should be a joint partnership (public / private). Get rid of the current design and put in a cement park that will require almost no mainentance and will last 40 years. Additionally, skateborading is no ranked behind basketball (sorry football, baseball, tennis, golf etc) as the most populary recreational activity among 8-16 year old kids. Get with the times and build the park.

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