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Ecumenical Council Concerned About Skate Park's Impact on Clothes Closet

Mayor Gillian and members of council assured the Ecunemical Council it would work with them to preserve the closet.

Ocean City Realtors John Daley and Gloria Votta gather winter coats donated at the Clothes Closet in this file photo.
Ocean City Realtors John Daley and Gloria Votta gather winter coats donated at the Clothes Closet in this file photo.
While last week’s council workshop discussion on the proposed skate park centered around the difficulties residents in the area have with parking, members of the Ocean City Ecumenical Council are concerned about the impact the proposed park could have on its Clothes Closet.

While mentioned briefly the previous week, talk of possibly moving the clothes closet was mostly overshadowed by discussion of the parking situation.

On Wednesday, Kris Stanwood met with Mayor Jay Gillian, Council President Anthony Wilson and Business Administrator Mike Dattilo about the possibility of moving the closet due to the proposed skateboard park at 5th and Asbury.

“I came away feeling a lot better,” Stanwood said during the comment portion of Thursday night’s council meeting at the library.

She said the Ecumenical Council’s concerns centered on parking and accessibility to the clothes closet. She said they received more than 23,000 pieces of clothing last year, and the council doesn’t want anything to damage the integrity of the program.

The Clothes Closet was first opened in 1994 and is currently located next to the fire department at 555 West Avenue. It’s mission is to provide free, clean and gently used clothing to Ocean City residents of all ages, according to the Ecumenical Council’s website.

The Clothes Closet was located across from St. Peter’s United Methodist Church before moving to its current location due to parking concerns a few years ago.

“We had to look for another spot and we looked all over the city,” said Councilman Peter Guinosso, a current co-vice president and former president of the Ecumenical Council. “My concern is that the Clothes Closet will be put in the back of everyone’s mind.”

Gillian and other members of council assured Guinosso and members of the Ecumenical Council that would not be the case.

“The Ecumenical Council has done so much good for Ocean City and I’m sorry we didn’t reach out sooner,” Gillian said. “We are just taking the first step tonight, and we will make it work for everyone.”

“The work the Ecumenical Council does is second to none and we will not let anything happen to you,” Wilson said. “You will not be displaced without knowing what the plan is.”

Councilman Michael DeVlieger, who made last week’s presentation during the workshop session and hosted the subsequent town hall, said that although the original design for the skateboard park didn’t provide room for the Clothes Closet, modifications can be made to the design that would allow both the skateboard park and the Clothes Closet to exist in that location.

“We want to make sure they’re comfortable,” DeVlieger said. “We have their best interests in mind.”

He said there was no malicious intent meant toward the Ecumenical Council during the process, and apologized if it appeared there was. He also believes the Atlantic City Skateboard Society that supports the skateboard park in Ocean City will become great advocates for the Clothes Closet.

The discussion preceded a vote on whether to pursue a Green Acres/Cape May County Open Space Recreation Grant to help pay for part of the $750,000 project. Council set aside $250,000 in its budget and will seek the grant and private funding to make up the rest of the cost.

In order to apply for the grant, the city must have a target site for the park. That city can apply for a change order once approved for the grant.

The deadline to apply for the grant is April 15.

Council voted 6-0 to pursue the grant. Guinosso recused himself due to his association with the Ecumenical Council.

The council was founded in 1983 and is made up of members of Ocean City’s Houses of Worship.  About 200 volunteers run the Clothes Closet, as well as the Food Cupboard and the Outreach Program. The Food Cupboard served about 2,188 people in 1,300 households last year.

The Clothes Closet is currently open on Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., and on Friday from 10 a.m..-2:30 p.m.

For more information, call 609-398-1009, or visit ocej.org.

The original skateboard park at Sixth Street and Boardwalk was shut down in 2011.

City officials approved plans for a new skateboard facility in July.  

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