Several residents spoke passionately both for and against the project. Those opposed cited safety, liability, maintenance, noise and drawing outsiders as their reasons for concern if the park were to be built. Many also felt the money could be better spent on fixing existing equipment.
Others, including several young skateboarders, noted that there is no place for skateboarding other than the streets, while the borough has multiple venues for other sports.
Fanwood Recreation Director Bob Budiansky explained that 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.
“Today we are at the point of we have a lot of information, but we haven’t had any designs made yet," said Budiansky. The meeting included posterboards with images of what sorts of equipment might work in the space provided by a few skate park installers. (See them in our gallery.)
“We are here tonight to say here is how far we’ve gotten in this process and to hear what town residents think about the whole thing," said Budiansky. "One thing we can agree on is that for skateboarders in Fanwood there is nowhere for them to skateboard properly besides streets, behind businesses."
Several of those in attendance said they were opposed to the park because of liability issues the town might face if a someone using it gets injured. Councilman Kevin Boris replied that the park has already been vetted by the borough's insurance company and would not cause any increase in the insurance premium.
Another argument by those opposed was that the funds the department already has could be better prioritized for maintaining and updating existing equipment."There are a lot of emotional folks here, but I see this as more of a financial decision," said Matt Oley, whose home backs to the park. "There are a lot of general infrastructure things that could be done first. My wife and I pick up handfuls of garbage and pull weeds out in the park. It could use better lighting and the bathrooms aren’t in great shape. There are better things we can do."
Others added that the tennis courts in the park should be fixed first, while members of the commission noted that there are already several nice tennis courts for players in La Grande Park and that repairing the courts at Forest Road Park (which they say will cost $165K to repair properly) is already being worked on as part of the recreation commission's five-year plan.
Some residents suggested that the skate park would be better and more centrally located at La Grande Park. A skate park existed in La Grande park previously, but went to disrepair. Budiansky said that that park had wooden ramps and wasn't properly upkept, but that the new park would have concrete ramps, which require less maintenance and are less noisy.
Those for the project argued that having a skate park would provide a unique outlet for kids who aren't interested in other sports.
"The purpose is to provide something for an underserved segment of the population," said Councilman Kevin Boris. "Up to a certain age, there are lot of things in the parks for children to enjoy, but when you are a tween or teen you run out of things to do in the park."
Others who were for the park talked about their positive experiences with skate culture.
"I have witnessed a lot of kids skateboarding and they teach each other, they take turns, there is a kind of an etiquette of how you go about it," said Lisa DeMarco. "Not all kids are football players and these guys need a place to go." DeMarco's son Luca Calligy even started a petition to build a park previously.
Fanwood Police Chief Richard Trigo added that Clark's skate park at Esposito Park is "one of the cleaniest, most orderly parks," he's seen, and encouraged those opposed to visit it.
Resident Jason Benedict said he felt the decision might be best made by taking a survey, as he noted that those in attendance at the meeting were not truly a representative sample of the borough, but rather mostly those who lived adjacent to the park.
The commission plans to meet again next week and discuss the feedback received at the meeting before making a decision.