2013 — The Year of the Skate Park
Lansdale Parks and Recreation Chairwoman Mary Fuller has dubbed this year the year when Lansdale Borough brings a skate park to the community.
The committee discussed its early progress on development of such a park Wednesday night. The borough is currently in the "learning mode" and "exploring mode" for the skate park.
What was revealed at that meeting — Five potential sites for the park, with the jointly-owned Schweiker Park on the list.
Lansdale Parks and Recreation Director Carl Saldutti is meeting with the Hatfield Township Park Board on Monday to update them on the borough's plan.
"I want to make sure they understand what our process is. I don't want them to read something that is a surprise," Saldutti said. "They were interested at one time, but their financial picture changed a bit. I want to let them know, as part of our assessment of sites, Schweiker Park is one. If that happens to be the site that the borough thinks might be the best location, what kind of cooperation can we expect? What are their feelings on, in a park we own together, having this asset?"
Other sites being looked at include the Hancock Street pocket park, Fourth Street Park, an area along the service drive to the borough electric building on Ninth Street, and an area across from the parks and recreation building near the North Penn Water Authority water tower and St. Mary Manor.
Saldutti said more research must be done to see who owns what parcels in the area of the water tower and St. Mary Manor.
"We want to get a feel for what's there and what's impacted and how feasible it is," he said. "We have to start narrowing it down soon. We want to keep moving it forward, and we need to say we feel comfortable that this is where it should go."
Fuller said she and Saldutti are looking at the pros and cons of each site. Saldutti said he would prefer a location with infrastructure already in place, which would save money.
"We want to impact as few residential properties as possible," he said. "The police chief wants to make sure, from an accessibility and surveillance standpoint, that it be in a location that can be patrolled."
Saldutti said the borough will meet with the community and discuss concerns.
"Any questions you have, we're going to answer as best we can," he said.
Fuller said she liked Hancock Street Park; it may be too much in one park area at Fourth Street Park.
"Hancock is very visible and we have space there," she said. "Maybe that's a good drawing point."
She added that Hatfield Township may not object to a skate park at Schweiker Park.
"They may not want to contribute at this point. I think indications are they wouldn't mind if it's there," she said. "Maybe down the road, they can share it jointly in the upkeep."
Concrete vs. Wood
In his preliminary research, Saldutti visited three municipalities with active skate parks: Ambler Borough, Abington Township and Quakertown Borough.
In each municipality, Saldutti met with individuals directly involved with maintenance of the skate parks. Saldutti inquired about how each skate park was materialized and developed, what costs were involved, what neighborhood concerns were addressed, and what lessons were learned.
Ambler Borough developed a 7,500-square-foot skate park within a 12-acre park on East Main Street, across from pre-existing and brand new WB Homes townhouses. The park was converted from four basketball courts.
The skating portion of the park is 116 feet by 66 feet. There is also an overflow seating area measuring 48 feet by 116 feet. The park is fenced in.
Abington Township has a 9,800-square-foot skate park that was built in 2010 at the 18-acre Roslyn Park. Roslyn Park also has soccer and football fields, basketball courts, playgrounds and a tot lot. Parking is about 100 yards away from the skate park. Residential areas also exist nearby.
Abington's park features two six-foot-deep bowls with tile coping. There is also proper drainage at the Abington park.
Ambler's skate park was partially designed by Jeff Clayton, of Philadelphia. Lansdale native Tom Martyn, former owner of Skater X, was instrumental in designing the Abington skate park.
Saldutti said he would be reaching out to both men for their input and possibly design into the park.
Both Ambler and Abington's skate parks are concrete. Quakertown's is wood and modular — and a nightmare.
"With all the information and research I've done, concrete is the way to go," Saldutti said. "No pre-fab stuff. No composite material. Poured-in-place concrete is the way to go."
Saldutti was told that the Quakertown skate park, which was built in 2003 and has undergone many modifications in a decade, requires a lot of maintenance because the edges of the wooden modular equipment get damaged in the summer from the heat of the blacktop.
"Quakertown strongly suggested we don’t go with wood or composite," Saldutti said.
He said Ambler's Code Enforcement Director Ron Meyers told him the borough was very pleased with concrete for its skate park.
"It reduces noise level, there's a lot less maintenance involved with it, and it holds up to weather conditions far better than any other material," Saldutti said.
Abington's skate park used an estimated 200 yards of concrete. It cost around $60,000 to construct the park, versus the nearly $109,000 for Quakertown's modular skate park.
Furthermore, almost all of the labor at Abington's park was volunteered.
"It was tremendous volunteer effort and a tremendous contribution by the tradespeople," Saldutti said.
All three parks are open year around, and close at dusk. Abington skate park has security lighting and surveillance. Saldutti was informed that surveillance at Abington's park cost around $20,000.
Saldutti said neither Ambler's nor Abington's skate parks are staffed in any way. Usage regulations are posted, but it's skate at your own risk.
Abington is insured by Delaware Valley Insurance Trust. There is no special rider required; the skate park is treated like any other recreation facility. Saldutti said injuries are reported to be minimal.
Saldutti told the parks and recreation committee that the only way to regulate and enforce protective gear at the skate park is to staff it.
"Abington staffed for two months and then abandoned the staffing. Kids weren't coming out and using it as much. They didn't feel the need to have a staff out there," he said.
Even without a staff, vandalism at Ambler and Abington skate parks is basically nonexistent.
"I asked them, and what I got was, skateboarders don't graffiti," Saldutti said. "The other parties who come and don't engage in skateboarding and hang out, they are the individuals more likely to tag. Skateboarders themselves have a vested interest and are not the ones that cause the problems."
Abington also allocates time for inline skating, bikes and scooters. There are also summer camps at the skate park, where instructors come in and teach youth how to skateboard.
Committee member Steve Malagari liked the idea of Lansdale offering summer camps at its future skate park.
Saldutti said "anything's possible."
"It's a smart thing to do," he said. "I think, at a minimum, that's what the community looks for: to have something formal. Skateboarders like the freedom of skateboarding. They like that it's not controlled, not real structured. They can do their thing."
He said skateboarders themselves are very active and physically fit. They also can band together to benefit the community.
"There are tremendous fundraising opportunities," he said. "When a group gets committed to a project, they can do tremendous things with raising money."
Before the borough even thinks of moving forward with a skate park, it will go to the users — the skateboarders — to get input on what they want to see in the Lansdale skate park.
"The intent is to get the skateboarding population heavily involved," Saldutti said.
The plan is to form a small steering committee, which will meet and then report back to the skateboarding community.
"You could have general meetings where everyone is invited to keep things moving along. You get the input. You use a conduit like a skateboarder panel, and they are the sounding board," Saldutti said. "It goes from the users to the decision makers to the architect."
Saldutti said he will never recommend to design and establish the park without their input.
"We want them to have ownership, to be a part of it," he said. "More important, once it's built, you want them to say, 'Man. This is really what we've been looking for.' To go any other way would be foolish."