Larchmont Skatepark Proposal Aired at Village Board
by Christina MacGillivray
(June 8, 2005) The Larchmont Board of Trustees had plenty of company on Monday, June 6 as a large number of concerned parents and children, some with skateboards under their arms, filled the courtroom and left others to stand in the back. The cause of this exceptional attendance was a PowerPoint presentation by a group championing the building of a Larchmont Skatepark in Flint Park.
“A lot of families and members of the community have shown their support for this project,” presenter Dominic Schmitt explained to the board. “We collected over 400 signatures supporting the building of the park in less than two weeks from families in the school district.”
Mr. Schmitt also relayed that they had received support from a growing list of officials, including both the Larchmont and Town of Mamaroneck youth officers, a local school principal, and the chair of the Committee on Parks and Trees. The Recreation Committee is not ready to issue its opinion of the proposal, but did recommend that the presentation was ready for a formal hearing by the Board of Trustees.
The skatepark is proposed for the west side of the tennis courts on the north side of Flint Park adjacent to the picnic table area. It will occupy approximately 10,800 square feet of current green space and provide what some feel is a much-needed area specifically devoted to skateboarding and in-line skating. (For further diagrams, see: Skateboard Park Proposed for Flint Park.)
“I hope they can get it done, it would be good for the kids,” Detective Bob Reynolds, Youth Officer for the Town of Mamaroneck was quoted as saying in the committee’s extensive presentation
“ What we have here is an issue of safety,” said Gracen Fraser, parent of two sons who skate and co-producer of the project proposal. “Right now the kids are skating on the sidewalk, in the streets, and in the parking lot of the train station. Not only is it extremely dangerous, the cops always have to come and chase them out, creating an issue for local law enforcement.”
Under the current situation, students may be issued citations for skating on public property and are subject to having the boards confiscated by police. “I think the park would be a lot safer than the train station, streets or playgrounds,” Village of Larchmont Youth Officer Barbara Daquino was quoted as saying in Monday night’s presentation.
But how safe will the park be?
According to the April 2002 Journal for Trauma, cited by the presenters, “Skateboarding is considered a relatively safe sport with 8.9 injuries per 1000, far less than basketball’s 21.2 injuries per 1000 and football’s 20.7 average number.” A park in Greenwich, Connecticut has had no liability issues since its opening over two years ago.
It is the Greenwich skatepark that has served as a case study for the Larchmont proposal. The presenters noted that money to build the Greenwich facility was quickly raised, with support from the Junior League, and that permit fees have allowed the park to operate in the black. Surplus money is going to the capital improvement fund.
“People stop me on the street to remark that the Skate Park is the best thing the Junior League has ever contributed to the community,” Carrie Frey, Greenwich Junior League Skate Park co-chair was quoted as saying.
Despite the enthusiasm of the presenters and the crowd, Mayor Ken Bialo indicated that the board would not be making a decision at the meeting. Trustees indicated a need to “absorb all the material” in the presentation and accompanying materials.
But the board did show concern with the level of activity and resulting noise level that accompany such a facility, especially with the park’s close proximity to homes, the tennis courts and the conservation area being planned for the nearby waterfront. Might the noise disturb tennis players, especially during tournaments at the adjacent courts? asked Trustee Anne McAndrews. “Noise will be an issue,” Mayor Bialo concurred. “Noise of the rollers on the pavement” and the “associated exclamations of joy might not make for an ideal next door neighbor to the conservancy area,” he suggested. Trustee Mike Wiener wondered about how the skate park would coexist with peak traffic from organized sports.
Of course the facility would generate noise and traffic, stated Trustee Liz Feld, but those are operational issues that can be addressed, she suggested. The board should keep an eye on the overall goal of providing safe and healthy recreational opportunities, as it decides whether the skatepark is something they want for the community.
Another inescapable concern is the cost of both the park and the ongoing insurance and operational expenses of such a facility. Mr. Schmitt estimated building expenses to be between $125,000 and $190,000, which he proposed to raise through a combination of private donations and public funds."Annual insurance coverage would be around $2,500 to be covered by the Village of Larchmont, and site maintenance would be monitored by the Skatepark Committee in conjunction with the Department of Public Works. Other ongoing costs, such as supervision, is expected to be covered by revenue from permit fees.
As is the case in Greenwich, Mr. Schmitt would like the Village of Larchmont to view the park as a commitment to the safety and well-being of its young people. "We want to build something positive for the kids and something that will have a positive impact on the community,” he replied when asked why a skatepark would be worthwhile for Larchmont.While the loss of green space was viewed as an unfortunate side effect of the proposal, the numerous students, parents and other supporters of the project hope the board will see the far worse outcome of not building an official site for kids to skate. In a rather dramatic endnote, Mr. Schmitt reminded the board that “ there is a risk to doing nothing,” and that is a risk he hopes the board is not willing to take.
Christina MacGillivray is interning for the Larchmont Gazette and LMC-TV this summer. She is a rising junior at Macalester College.