Fanwood Recreation Director Bob Budiansky says he proposed that very question to the borough Recreation Commission as they discussed their 2011 Master Plan.
"Every year the commission considers what new projects we want to bring into our parks," says Fanwood Recreation Director Bob Budiansky. "I came up with idea after I went to opening of the skateboard park in Esposito Park in Clark four years ago. I thought we had a space in Forest Road Park that was similar and of a similar size, dilapidated and severely underused. It would be a good option for a skateboard park. Over the years, I've seen kids skateboard all over the place in town. Clearly, there are at least people here who would be interested in skateboarding."
But, to be clear, Budiansky says he isn't particularly advocating for the park – just bringing the idea to the table.
"It's up to the commission to act," he says. "I’m the director, but I don’t have a vote."
Now the commission is seeking residents' thoughts on adding a skate park. On Oct. 17, they will hold an open meeting at the Forest Road Park building at 8 p.m. to discuss the proposal.
Budiansky says money for the skate park is already in place. The estimated cost is $124,000, which would be half paid for by a Union County grant the department has already been awarded and half of the funds would come from money the department has saved from revenue.
"This is all still very preliminary," says Budiansky. "The money is there, but no decision has been made. We now are basically reaching out to Fanwood residents to see if they have an opinion on this. We are not at the stage of doing anything as far as hiring a construction company, engineering firm, or design firm – and we won’t be there until we hear back from community.
So far, though, Budiansky says the response he's heard has been positive.
"We talked to couple neighbors about the idea and I was surprised that people were very open, though they have a lot of questions," he says.
To help answer all those questions, the department has created a brochure and a website, and will have a booth at Fanny Wood Day on Sunday where they can also discuss the proposal with residents.
Budiansky has also received rosy feedback from other local recreation departments that have installed a skate park.
"When the first comments were circling as to a possible skate park opening in Clark, everyone panicked and said it will bring in that type – druggies, riff raff, etc," said Clark Recreation Director Ralph Bernardo. "I have to tell you it has been the complete opposite. ... It has been a great addition to the town and I have taken advantage of it as another recreational vehicle. I love that we have a skate park in Clark.”
The commission's website on the project lists the potential benefits, including:
-"providing a place for kids who aren’t attracted to traditional team sports a place to go and express themselves in an individual and athletic manner,"
-"when a skatepark opens, it tends to draw folks from outlying communities to bring their kids to the skatepark, attracting patrons to local businesses who might not otherwise be in the area."
-"Skateboarding is physically active and requires, at times, great concentration. It encourages children to spend time outdoors, tests their endurance, sharpens their senses, and develops their creativity."
-"Over 90% of deaths involving skateboards in the U.S. occur outside of skateparks. Most of these tragedies also involve a motor vehicle. Skateparks, even the more challenging ones, are far safer than kids rolling through busy streets."
-"When parks are built right—with local skater input and involvement throughout the process—those youth develop a sense of ownership, pride, and community engagement. The very existence of the park is the result of their hard work and interaction with the broader community. These previously disenfranchised skaters, who perhaps once ran from the police, find themselves working with the police, the city, and the community as a whole. It’s a transformational process for these young people."
Weigh in: Should Fanwood build a skate park? Will you attend the Oct. 17 meeting? Tell us in the comments.