Montclair skate park work awaits township permit
KATE ALBRIGHT/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL
The expansion of the skate park at Rand Park, faces delays as they wait for approval of their construction permit from the township.
Skate Essex, a nonprofit organization that has been strongly backing the skate park, hoped that the expansion would have been completed by April. There were originally four tennis courts in Rand Park; two of them were designated as a temporary skate park in a resolution passed by the Township Council in February 2020.
In July 2021, the council passed a resolution that would make the temporary skate park permanent, leaving Rand with two tennis courts. As the popularity of the skate park amped up, Skate Essex backed a resolution that was passed by the council this January that would allow the skate park to expand and include skate sculptures in the other two courts, taking up all four tennis courts at Rand Park.
Now, nearly three months after the anticipated opening of the skate sculptures, residents and skaters are wondering when construction will begin.
The money for the project comes solely from donations and grants that Skate Essex acquired. The nonprofit raised $40,000 for the work and was also granted $25,000 by the Skatepark Project, formerly known as the Tony Hawk Foundation, in February.
Because the funds came from outside sources, Skate Essex had to submit a donation agreement that was approved on June 21 by the township. With that approval Skate Essex can move forward on the project with its contractor, 5th Pocket Skateparks, and the designer of the project, U.S. Olympian skateboarder and X Games medalist Alexis Sablone.
However, a date for the construction of the skateboard sculptures to begin will not be confirmed until a construction permit is approved by the township. According to Skate Essex, a permit application was submitted last week. Once the application is approved, a construction manager from the township will contact the contractor for the skate park to discuss when building will commence.
Though the process has been lengthy, representatives from both Skate Essex and the township said that no one is to blame for the delay. “While we hope the township could move faster to build a permanent skate park, we must emphasize that working with the Township Council and township staff has been terrific,” said Paul King, a Skate Essex trustee.
“Everyone we have engaged with in the township has expressed their support for a skate park in Montclair. Most importantly, it has been great for the high school and middle school kids involved to experience local government in action.”
Councilman Peter Yacobellis, who has been vocal about his support of the skate park, said: “We're giving a private company permission to build something in a public park. You know, there were a couple additional steps that we needed to take as a governing body, which we took, which we didn't really know until we got to that point.”
Yacobellis said that eager skaters will be able to use the skateable sculptures soon. “It should be opening in the next couple weeks,” he said. “And I think it's really exciting.”
Despite the excitement that some may have about the project, the pending construction has created strain for those who enjoy tennis.
Since the expected start of construction in March, the two tennis courts that were reserved for tennis have been closed.
Residents like David Greenbaum, a skateboarder and a tennis player, believe that the tennis courts should have stayed open until construction started. Greenbaum compares the lack of coordination with the skateboard park construction to the construction situation at Essex and Nishuane parks and the closure of the pools there.
"It appears to me to be a culture of bureaucracy, not a culture of service,” he said. “Having the pools and the tennis courts closed for months waiting for construction is inconsiderate to the residents who pay some of the highest taxes in New Jersey."
Though the two tennis courts are not currently being used by skateboarders or tennis players, once construction is completed all four tennis courts will be used for skateboarding.