BELMAR, NJ — Contrary to recent rumors around town, Belmar’s skate park on 16th Avenue will not be closing for now. Borough officials just want skateboarders to follow the rules — so that no one gets hurts.

And to accomplish that goal, the borough is looking to work with the skateboarding community so that they can address safety concerns together — the most urgent issues being skateboarders not wearing helmets and other safety gear, and damage occurring at the 10-year-old facility.

“All we want is compliance. We want people to skate safely,” said Belmar Business Administrator Edward Kirschenbaum, who is in the process of organizing a volunteer committee that would include “ambassadors”— older, more experienced skateboarders who would serve as mentors to younger skaters.

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One potential ambassador is Kyle Jones of Belmar, who started an online petition to “Save Belmar Skate Park” when word last month began circulating throughout the local skateboarding community that the borough was considering closing the facility, located in Dempsey Park.

“The Belmar skate park is a vital part of our town. It is its own community composed of skaters from all over the Jersey Shore,” read the petition, which has been signed by more than 5,500 supporters. “We have given individuals a place to come together, embrace their talents, learn from one another, and do what they love the most. Why would the town ever try and take that away?”

Jones was among a group of skateboarders and supporters attending the borough council’s April 16 meeting to voice their opposition to plans to close the park and to formally present the petition. “There is a family at Belmar skate park, and we are care about our skate park,” said Jones, who has been skating at the park since it opened in 2009. “It would a shame to see the skate park go to waste.”

Mayor Mark Walsifer said that the borough began contemplating the park’s future after the safety concerns began to mount. “No one is following the rules,” he said, adding that ongoing damage at the park “has been a big burden” for the Department of Public Works. “And the Police Department doesn’t have the time to put an officer there all the time.”

During the council meeting, Kirschenbaum said that Jones would be a “perfect role model” for other skaters just by wearing his helmet — a statement with which Jones concurred, agreeing to work with borough officials in forging the partnership.

While Public Works will continue to maintain the park as best it can, Kirschenbaum noted that donations will be sought for safety improvements at the park itself as part of the committee’s effort.

DID YOU KNOW ...

The Belmar skate park is located in Dempsey Park at 16th and Railroad Avenues, which also features basketball courts. The asphalt park was named for James Dempsey, a beloved juvenile officer of the Belmar Police Department.

The park was built on the site of a former coal gasification plant owned by Jersey Central Power & Light, which was remediated through a consent order between the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection and JCP&L.

                    -- Excerpted from Belmar’s Environmental Resource Inventory, October 2008

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