Skate Park Debated In Beach Haven

Beach Haven Borough Council discussed the skatepark at its February 23 meeting. (Screenshot by Stephanie Faughnan)

  BEACH HAVEN – A resolution concerning a proposed skateboard park in the municipality could finally come up for a vote by the governing body later this month.

  It might all depend on whether or not a proposed site plan is in place by then.

  Councilwoman Jaime Baumiller said discussions about the project began a year ago when the Council received a petition requesting a skate park. Over 200 signatures were presented by students who attended the Beach Haven School.

  The top three concerns under consideration are the location of the skate park, its design, and its funding. Once those items have been determined, the Council will need to decide how to manage the park and whether there will be supervised or unsupervised hours of operation.

  The Joint Insurance Fund (JIF) will most likely have certain requirements concerning the establishment of the skate board park. JIF handles the borough’s risk management and claims process with regard to incidents on local government property.

  According to Baumiller, funding for the skatepark was initially to be paid for by donations alone. However, residents have objected to the government agreeing to pay for other recreational activities such as pickleball and tennis and not the proposed skateboard park,

  “I’m proposing that Beach Haven pays for Phase I of the skate park,” said Baumiller. “If possible, Phase II would be paid for by donations.”

  Officials originally considered three separate locations, including Taylor Avenue, Walsh Field, and behind the old police station. The size requirements made a big difference in coming up with Walsh Field as the proposed site.

  “In order for a park to be insured, you have to have a five-foot buffer between the park and the fence,” Baumiller said. “There’s just not enough room back there at Taylor, and there’s also a visibility concern.”

The site of the proposed skate park is Walsh Field, next to the tennis courts. (Screenshot by Stephanie Faughnan)

  The police chief and the Department of Public Works supervisor nixed using the area by the old police station. Cable and other utilities could create a problem.

  Walsh Field is approximately 211,000 square feet and is located at 300 Pearl Street. The skate park would take up 2.7 percent of the space in the park and is marked for placement next to the tennis courts.

  Baumiller emphasized that the proposal calls for the construction of what she termed a “tiny” skate park with 5,000 square feet planned for Phase I of the project.

  “It’s not a destination skate park where there are competitions,” Baumiller said. “They are 30,000 to 40,000 square feet.”

  Plans are for multi-generations of families to utilize the park once Phase II construction is completed. Smaller children will be able to gain their footing on one end, with more challenging areas located on the other side.

  Insurance regulations include the need for fencing and signage. Participants would need to wear helmets and pads.

  The governing body previously passed an ordinance allotting $325,000 to the project. Hopes are that any balance will come from volunteer donations.

  “I think that kids that skate board have a mission, and they’re going to come in here to enjoy doing this,” shared Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis. “It’s going to be fun watching them. We need to support the athletic endeavors of both the children and older people in town.”

  Members of the Council raised questions regarding the cost of construction. Some expressed concerns that the skate park could bring problems to the area as allegedly experienced in other areas.

  Several people spoke during the public portion of the town council meeting. Most shared their excitement about the proposal, while some thought it was a dangerous idea.

  Sharon Ryan, a Pearl Street resident, said she did a Google search and found that many skateparks had shut down in recent years. She said many of the articles she came across related the park closures to illegal drug and alcohol use.

  “I don’t believe it would be our (Beach Haven) kids at fault here,” Ryan said. “Several of the articles said the kids came from of town, and they basically took over the parks.”

  Mark Morton, 53, said he and his family are seasonal Beach Haven residents. He offered his support for the project, saying he has two daughters who skateboarded. Morton also enjoys skateboarding and said he sees it as a family event.

  “I think it’s great to stay positive about this because we can come up with a million negative things to say,” shared John O’Hara of Pennsylvania Avenue. “But we can solve those things, and I’m so happy the Council has taken the time to hear us and support us.”

  The enthusiasm for the proposal came from residents of other towns on Long Beach Island. Rather than attracting trouble, some saw the skate park as a means of keeping kids away from it.

  One speaker pointed out that before the public commentary began, the first three rows of the meeting were filled with Beach Haven elementary school kids who hoped the skate park would become a reality.

  “Unfortunately, a lot of them had to leave for sports commitments,” Dan Allen said, “Or, they just got plain tired of budget discussions.”

  Surfing, skating, and fishing are what this community wants to do,” summed up Ship Bottom resident John Coen. “You’re giving something that reflects the culture that has been here..and making an investment in the community.”