By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
winters@montclairlocal.news

Skate Essex will move ahead with plans to expand its skate park at Rand Park in Montclair, with the township’s insurance provider having returned a favorable risk analysis and review of insurance costs, according to Councilman Peter Yacobellis.  

Additionally, Skate Essex announced on March 3 that The Skatepark Project (formerly The Tony Hawk Foundation) has awarded it a $25,000 grant for the next phase — adding eight skateable sculptures designed by USA Olympic skateboarder and seven-time X Games Medalist Alexis Sablone to the park. The grant will supplement the $40,000 Skate Essex, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, raised over the past year and be used to pay for the sculptures, board member Larry Linietsky, who heads up Skate Essex fundraising, said.

In January, the Montclair Township Council voted to allow the expansion of the park and directed the township manager to seek the analysis of insurance costs and review implications of the skate park with the township’s insurance agent, Garden State Municipal Joint Insurance Fund. If the review came back as favorable, the plan has been to install the skateable sculptures on the southern two of Rand's four tennis courts. The township would additionally keep the existing temporary skate park located on the northern two tennis courts in place. Once the installation is complete, all four courts would be used by the skaters.

Olympian Alexis Sablone rides a ramp at Montclair’s temporary skate park in January of 2021, when she came to Montclair to see the site and meet with local skaters. Skateable sculptures designed by Sablone will be installed at the park.
KATE ALBRIGHT/FILE PHOTO
Olympian Alexis Sablone rides a ramp at Montclair’s temporary skate park in January of 2021, when she came to Montclair to see the site and meet with local skaters. Skateable sculptures designed by Sablone will be installed at the park.
KATE ALBRIGHT/FILE PHOTO
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“The outcome was considered favorable. There’s a negligible increase to our insurance premium for medical accident policy and some requirements such as posting hours of operation, trespassing warnings and updated rules and regulations that we have to do,” Yacobellis said about the analysis. 

The additional premium to the current recreation medical accident coverage is estimated at $10,080, annually, Yacobellis said.

The township hasn’t yet answered a March 2 public records request by Montclair Local, seeking a copy of the report.

The skate park in Montclair will be the first in the United States that Sablone, an MIT and Barnard College graduate, has designed. She had previously designed a skateable art public space in Sweden. She visited Montclair in January of 2021 to review Montclair’s space and meet with local skaters. 

“Montclair has such a vibrant and inspiring community of skaters,” Sablone said in a Skate Essex press release concerning the grant. “You can tell how passionate they are by how used and appreciated the existing skate spaces are, and by the tremendous efforts they’ve made to improve and expand the space they have. I’m really looking forward to seeing my sculptures there and hope they will be loved and skated for years to come.”

Construction is scheduled for the end of March, with groundbreaking in April, Linietsky said.

Although Sablone has designed the sculptures, contractors 5th Pocket Skateparks will construct them. 

“The sculptures are made of concrete and covered in skate-able paint, they are designed to be skated upon and are thus less noisy than the DIY skateable ramps and obstacles that are there now,” Linietsky said.

Last summer, Skate Essex reinforced and insulated the DIY equipment to dampen sounds after neighbors told the council that the noise from the park was “deafening.” Linietsky said Skate Essex has not had any complaints since insulating the equipment.

Council Members Yacobellis and Robin Schlager, who have been working to get a skate park and sponsored the resolutions, said in a press release that Sablone's sculptures represent “the best that Montclair offers — art, positivity, community, athletics and diversity for all to enjoy.” 

In July of last year, the Township Council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution supporting a permanent skate park at Rand Park. 

The January resolution to expand the park at Rand Park also directs the township administration to collaborate with Skate Essex on financing, development, operation and maintenance planning for a permanent skate park, considering sites including Rand. 

“We are thrilled that this is coming together now so we can have the sculptures built and ready by the end of April for the warmer months coming in 2022,” Linietsky said. 

Although the use of tennis courts as a temporary measure has been mostly met with approval, tennis enthusiasts have voiced opposition to losing play space, especially with the township’s announcement of plans to take all of the four courts at Rand Park.

In the case of another location being chosen for a permanent park in the future, the sculptures could be moved to that location, Paul King, a member of Skate Essex’s board of trustees, said.