Toms River Skateboarders Press Case For Park
A skate park in Toms River is still a long way from the finish line. But the township Recreation Committee is taking a serious look.
Several dozen teens, some with skateboards in hand, piled into the Committee's Monday meeting in the Municipal Building. Discussion of the park followed an informal survey of 11 possible projects. Before the end of the session, the panel had formed a subcommittee to gauge the feasibility.
In a three-month period ending June 3, the skate park idea corralled 2,354 votes. Placing a distant second with 729 was a spray park. Indoor tennis, a fishing pier and hiking trails rounded out the top five among respondents.
Web surfers were also given choices of a public ice skating area, mini-golf, an amphitheater, outdoor pool, boat ramp and bocce-shuffleboard courts.
A small number of spray park advocates were outnumbered by the teens and their adult mentors, who came prepared for questions from the committee.
Bernard Viggiani, a parent, delivered an impassioned plea for a safe, supervised and maintained place where teens from all over the township could perform their gravity-defying turns. No one yet knows if it's possible, he told the group. But in 1960, he continued, no one knew if Americans could land a man on the moon. Both, he reminded them, would take commitment and planning.
Committee members responded that cost would be the biggest factor in determining feasibility. Viggiani countered that they had already discussed the obstacle. And, to a round of applause from the skateboarders, he pledged that they would save the township the expense by raising the money on their own. Rough estimates ranged from around $100,000 to about $600,000.
Later, Viggiani recounted that the teens and their supporters discussed the financial issue the previous week. They agreed, he said, "that they really shouldn't be standing there with their hands out for a freebie, and that the going could get rough. So, hoping that the township would agree to it in principle, they're prepared to actually fund-raise if it becomes necessary to do that. And even if it wasn't totally necessary, it's probably a good idea for them to do that because then they take ownership in the park."
Joe DeVito of Howell, who's taught skateboarding for more than a decade and currently works at The Incline Club in Lakewood, said he'd taken part in similar drives elsewhere, including Point Pleasant, and found the Toms River committee to be among the more enlightened he'd seen.
"I think it was pretty fair," he acknowledged in their response to his comments. "They didn't shoot me down. They were taking it into consideration, they seemed like they were really interested to find out what it's like from our perspective."
Other attendees raised concerns about insurance and maintenance costs, and questioned the wisdom of taking on more expense fresh off a girls' softball field project that cost several million dollars. The idea was presented to seek a private entrepreneur to build and operate a skate park, either indoors or outdoors.
Viggiani was cool to the idea. "This has to be a public skate park," he explained, "so that if one kid can skate, they all can skate. You can't have dollars separating a young person from a sports activity."
Committee members asked the group to research and develop data relevant to safety and costs, based on other parks now in operation. Brick, Lacey and Jackson Townships are among the nearby communities which have created skate parks.