A few of those residents spoke during Thursday night’s council workshop meeting, but at least one resident she felt like those who spoke out against the location of the park were being made out to be the “bad guys.”
None of them, or anyone else who protested the park, claimed not to be against the skate park. They were concerned with the parking situation, despite a presentation delivered by Councilman Michael DeVlieger that claimed each spot lost as a result of the park would be replaced.
A few residents suggested other spots, including 34th Street and the Ninth Street Bridge, among other suggestions. However, each of those sites have challenges: a spot on 34th Street would mean replacement of new tennis courts currently in place, and the Ninth Street Bridge area proposed is owned by the state.
The 12-person committee that selected the site worked with Spohn Ranch, a California based group that helps design and build skate parks.
The spot on Fifth Street just north of the current Clerk’s Office and near the Tabernacle and the Primary School was selected out of 21 possible sites in part because of its high visibility and centralized location in the city.
The construction of the park would result in the loss of 33 parking spaces in the current lot, DeVlieger said.
However, the Comcast trailers currently in the area will leave, opening up 10 spots, and six municipal vehicles that usually parked there have already been relocated. The park must be restriped and re-engineered, which DeVlieger said will open up another five spaces, and Fourth and Fifth streets could be converted to one-way streets. The subsequent implementation of angle parking on the street could bring back eight spots, leaving 10 spots remaining to be filled.
While DeVlieger said they would work with the Primary School to try to recover the other 10 spots, a resident during the town hall meeting that followed the workshop suggested that opening spots during the summer reserved for buses during the year would instantly open 31 spots to the community.
Resident Mark Sutherland said the area is the oldest in Ocean City.
“It’s been around since the 1890s,” he said. “The garages are designed for horses. You can park your car in there, but you can’t open the door.”
He and other residents argued this creates a unique parking situation, while others argued parking is an issue throughout the city.
DeVlieger said the project wouldn’t move forward until every lost parking space was recovered elsewhere in the area.
The original skateboard park at Sixth Street and Boardwalk was shut down in 2011. At the time, city officials cited safety concerns due to deteriorating equipment and the use of bicycles in the park were contributing factors.
One resident said there were other factors that contributed to the park being shut down during Thursday’s meeting. Business Administrator Mike Dattilo said that was true, but many of the problems stemmed from not being able to access the park. Insurance companies are more relaxed about the amount of time a skate park can be open now, Dattilo said.
City Council set aside $250,000 in this year’s budget for the proposed park. The total cost of the project is projected at $750,000, at between $40 and $55 a square foot.
The city is also applying for Green Acres/Cape May County Open Space Recreation Grant Funding, and would solicit private donations for any additional needed money.
To qualify for the grant, the city must propose a specific site for the project. The application for the grant is due April 15.
DeVlieger proposed setting aside Thursday night’s workshop to discuss the skate park during council’s regular meeting on March 27. Councilman Antwan McClellan will also host a meeting to discuss the proposed skateboard park on Saturday, 10 a.m.-noon at the Eighth Street Recreation Center.
Since last week’s announcement, Councilman Keith Hartzell has researched other skate parks, including one in Jupiter, Florida that cost about $400,000. He said council’s goal is to finish the park at the lowest possible expense to the taxpayer, and he would attempt to get as close to the $400,000 price tag as possible.
The park would be open 8 a.m.-dusk seven days a week, which raised concerns from some residents about noise issues every day of the week. Some also questioned just when “dusk” would be.
During the town hall portion of the meeting, DeVlieger said dim lights would be used. The committee specifically shied away from stadium lighting for the park because skaters must be gone around dusk. One person who supported the park said skaters have no interest in skating beyond 9 p.m.
Everyone will be required to wear the proper equipment, including helmet, knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards. Skateboards, roller blades and bicycles will be permitted in the park. However, bikes with pegs will not be allowed, and if pegs begin to cause damage in the park, bikes will be banned.