Town Officials Reaffirm Interest In Skate Park

Town Officials Reaffirm Interest In Skate Park
"We just have to find a suitable location and allow the parks commission to work through the logistics," Mayor Zack Tyndall said of plans for a skate park in Berlin this week.

BERLIN– Town officials this week asked the Berlin Parks Commission to put together some steps that will help the town make a skate park a reality.

During a discussion of the town’s park priorities, members of the public expressed concern that an inclusive playground, a concept first discussed last year, topped the town’s priority list despite the fact that residents had been clamoring for a skate park for years. Mayor Zack Tyndall said proponents of the skate park needed dialogue with the Berlin Parks Commission while council members asked commission members to do something concrete to get the project moving.

“As it stands now our community thinks the Town of Berlin has done totally nothing and pushed this to the side,” Councilman Dean Burrell said. “That is not what has happened.”

Town officials tabled a decision regarding Berlin’s parks priority list last month because they wanted to hear from the parks commission. They wanted to hear the reasoning behind the development of the town’s priority list, which has an inclusive playground as top priority for grant funding and a skate park study as the number two priority.

Commission members told the council this week they wanted to see a skate park built in Berlin but felt that replacing the existing playground equipment at Stephen Decatur Park seemed like a more attainable goal, particularly for the grant application due this month. They added that installing playground equipment would give the town a chance to address drainage issues in the park ad would benefit a large portion of the population.

“It serves a huge number of people…,” commission member Patricia Dufendach said. “I think it’s a gem in our town and we should keep it as modern and safe and up-to-date as possible.”

Commission member Sarah Hooper added that a location for a skate park hadn’t been decided on yet. One possibility, Heron Park, could even be sold. She said the parks commission would want to hear from neighbors of the potential location before deciding on where the skate park should be located.

“There’s pros and cons to every site,” said Mike Wiley, chair of the commission.

While commission members have looked at the skate park study We Heart Berlin had conducted by Salisbury University’s BEACON, they said they still needed more information.

“This is a huge investment we’re talking about,” Dufendach said.

Councilmembers questioned the commission’s interest in an inclusive playground. Mayor Zack Tyndall said that with the playground as top priority, the town would be able to submit a $1 million grant application.

“It’s a big ticket item that replaces what we already have,” he said, adding that the grant application was complete and ready to be submitted to the state.

He added that while the playground could be a better fit for this grant application, it didn’t mean the town couldn’t pursue other funding for a skate park study.

Councilman Jack Orris pointed out that the community felt strongly enough about a skate park that citizens had already donated thousands to the nonprofit We Heart Berlin for the project.

“The discussion at this juncture is what is a better or more competitive grant application,” Tyndall said.

He suggested proponents of a skate park have dialogue with the parks commission. Burrell took it a step further and asked the commission to develop a list of steps “to put us on the path to attaining a skateboard park.”

When potential site visits were brought up, Councilwoman Shaneka Nichols said she supported the idea but wanted to see those occur soon, before inclement weather became an issue.

“I want us to be moving,” she said.

Resident Mary Hedlesky said a skate park had been talked about for years and had been considered a priority, something that was contradicted by seeking funds for a playground. She added that a skate park would serve teens, who were generally too old for the playground.

“We don’t have any options for them,” she said.

Tony Weeg, founder of We Heart Berlin, said a skate park was inclusive and, like a playground would serve a lot of local residents. He pointed out that kids typically lacked access to skate parks.

Weeg also noted that skate parks didn’t typically have employees and that while the one envisioned for Berlin would cost about $700,000, it could be done in phases. He said a first phase could be built for $260,000.

Resident Gina Velong pointed out that the town could even consider building a couple small skate parks rather than one expansive one. Resident Mary Fiore said that when her family had moved to town, one of the first things her son had done was write a letter to Tyndall asking for a skate park. She said her son was now a teenager and had nowhere to skateboard. As a result, his skateboard has been confiscated by police in the past.

“They don’t have a place to go,” she said.

Tyndall said there did seem to be a need for a skate park.

“I think there’s a big group behind it,” he said. “We just have to find a suitable location and allow the parks commission to work through the logistics.”

The council agreed to approve the Program Open Space Annual Program for Development with the inclusive playground as the town’s top priority.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

Alternative Text

Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.