Public Meeting on Proposed Fanwood Skateboard Park Gets Heated

Resident Michael Lewis spoke extensively against the proposed skate park. Credits: Tom Kranz
Teenager spoke in favor of the skateboard park saying there needs to be a safe alternative for skateboarders over streets and parking lots. Credits: Tom Kranz
Mother of teenage skateboarder speaks in favor of the project. Credits: Tom Kranz
Police Chief Trigo, Recreation Director Budiansky and Recreation Commission Chairman Joe Valente Credits: Tom Kranz
Artist rendering of one possible design Credits: Tom Kranz

FANWOOD, NJ - A public meeting to discuss a proposed skateboard park brought about 40 people to Forest Road Park on Thursday to hear the plan as presented by the Fanwood Recreation Commission. Most commission members were in attendance, as was Councilman Kevin Boris and Police Chief Richard Trigo.

The skateboard park would be constructed inside the former street-hockey rink in Forest Road Park. The rink, enclosed by a chain link fence, has fallen into disrepair and is currently not used. Recreation Director Bob Budiansky said the idea for the park began as a way to renovate the old hockey rink and create an area for Fanwood's many teenagers to skateboard safely. Budiansky said the skateboard facility would be financed by a $62,000 grant from Union County matched with $62,000 of locally generated funds--a combination of tax revenue and proceeds from Recreation Department activities such as the 5K run and building rentals.

It appeared the majority of people attending the hearing were residents who lived close to Forest Road Park who oppose the project for a variety of reasons including concerns over safety, lack of supervision, increased noise and mischief. Several residents complained about broken bottles and vandalized bushes. Trigo said his review of police calls to Forest Road Park turned up a few complaints about foul language and graffiti, but said the department has received no complaints of anything more serious. He said police regularly patrol Forest Road Park and he urged residents to call police any time they felt crime or safety was an issue, now or in the future.

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Two parents of skaters said the town owed it to them and their children to acknowledge that skateboarding is a mainstream sport and that having the park would be a safer alternative to skating in streets and parking lots. A teenaged boy also spoke in favor of the park, saying the need is real.

Emotions ran high on several occasions. One resident sobbed at the prospect of a skateboard park. Others expressed a preference for building it in LaGrande Park, the site of a failed skateboarding area some years go, but not near their homes. Several times, commission members had to ask for order as residents shouted over each other.

Several individuals asked whether the Recreation Commission could better spend $62,000 on repairs and maintenance to the current facilities at Forest Road Park before adding another new element. Budiansky responded by saying that the commission has already made many upgrades to both parks including a new walking path and irrigation system at Forest Road Park, outfield nets and a pavilion at LaGrande Park, and that the commission was constantly balancing upkeep and maintenance against adding facilities to increase services to the borough.

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