Skateboarding park likely to become a reality in Mount Laurel

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:55

WEST MILFORD — Ricky Maiola and his friends just want to skateboard. But in the whole of West Milford there's not a single place designated for skateboarding. So they make do in the parking lot at ShopRite, the neglected tennis courts in Mount Laurel Park and anywhere else they can find. There's a rhythm to it. The kids go over to ShopRite and start skating. The police come and chase them away. The skaters leave, wait 20 minutes to a half hour and come back. Sometimes the police come again. Neither the skaters nor the police are gaining any ground in this ongoing battle of wills. That's why Maiola and his friends showed up at a town council meeting last week. A project started four years ago to rehabilitate Mount Laurel Park includes a skate park. But the plan has been delayed time and again because of objections by residents around the park. The Parks & Rec Department had only 30 days left to move forward on the plan in order to keep grant money they won for the renovation. They were presenting the latest revision of the park design to the council. In a last ditch effort to prevent the skateboard area, residents pleaded with the council to stop the plan. 70 residents signed a petition against the proposal. Objections raised included issues around supervision, insurance, littering, noise and preservation of the tennis courts where the skate park is planned. The skaters and a number of adult supporters argued for the park. Renee Palermo, Director of the Parks & Recreation Department, said "It's already a skate park and it will continue to be whether we build it or not. At least this will be safe." Another resident brought photos of homemade ramps some children had built in the woods, and said that the ramps were dangerous as well as an indication of how desperate the kids are. Some people voiced the opinion that West Milford actually needs three skate parks. On that subject, the 15-year-old Maiola said, "One would be great. If they built three, it would be like, our town really cares about us." The following Wednesday the council voted to approve moving forward with the project, with Councilmen Nolan and Warden voting against it because of the 70 signature petition. In other business: The sale of the 70-acre Sheridan property on Morestown Road has been the topic of much discussion and some controversy. Diane Maraschal of People Helping People, the nonprofit group trying to buy the parcel, went before the town council to explain who they are and what their plans entail. She said People Helping People provides recreational programs for senior citizens and children. Their plans for the Sheridan property include things like hiking trails and bocci ball courts and providing an area for seniors to garden. They plan to use the existing buildings (with the possible exception of rebuilding the barn) and will have no motorized vehicle recreation. Only one person, the program director, will actually live on the premises. Maraschal also said they would be willing to partner with West Milford Parks & Rec to possibly fill some of the recreational needs of the community at large.