BERLIN – Town officials said this week they wouldn’t select a location for a skate park until the Berlin Parks Commission weighed in on the issue.
While a presentation of the skate park location study was on Monday’s agenda, Mayor Zack Tyndall told members of We Heart Berlin officials would not be making any decisions without the input of the commission.
“As we’ve said in the past you’ve got to get the parks commission’s recommendation on a site before we’ll vote,” Tyndall said.
Since early 2022, We Heart Berlin, a local nonprofit focused on promoting recreational opportunities in Berlin, has been focused on bringing a skate park to town. On Monday, Tony Weeg, executive director of the nonprofit, and Jeff Smith, president, presented the town council with a skate park location study. We Heart Berlin hired Spohn Ranch, a well-known skate park design company, to review Stephen Decatur Park, Henry Park and Heron Park as potential locations for a Berlin facility. They evaluated the sites based on six different factors – visibility, accessibility, design canvas, barriers to being shovel ready, infrastructure and environmental impact.
“At the end of the day Stephen Decatur Park was picked as the best location,” Weeg said.
Spohn Ranch suggested the skateboarding infrastructure could be built adjacent to the parking lot near the pond. While the actual elements for Berlin’s skate park haven’t been selected yet, the concept drawing Spohn Ranch shows at Stephen Decatur Park features a flow bowl on one side, a street section in the middle and a pump track on the other side.
Weeg said he needed the town to formally select a location so We Heart Berlin could pursue grants to help with construction.
Councilman Jay Knerr said he’d heard from several residents this week who supported the concept but had concerns about a skate park at Stephen Decatur Park.
“What they’re saying is this particular area is often used for overflow parking for events uptown on any given weekend,” he said. “To put the skate park in this particular area would eliminate that.”
He said the solution could be to put the skateboarding infrastructure on the southeast section of the park.
“The decision’s up to you guys,” Weeg said.
Tyndall asked if the location proposal had been brought to the town’s parks commission.
“We figured the parks commission had already been involved in the early processes,” Weeg said.
Tyndall said he always wanted to hear feedback from the town’s boards and commissions.
“I’m not sure what the parks commission would do different than the professionals,” Weeg said. “If we were going to leave it up to the parks commission, we could have saved the $20,000.”
Councilman Dean Burrell said the town always had items related to the parks go to the parks commission first.
Councilman Steve Green asked how the park would compare in size to other area parks. Weeg confirmed it would be about the size of the Ocean City Skate Park.
“I think the study is great,” Green said. “Thank you for funding it. That’s tremendously valuable. I do think that if it goes before the parks commission it needs to be a yay or nay for Stephen Decatur Park.”
He added that he didn’t understand why the skate park had been put on the agenda if there was to be no action and pointed out that there were numerous people in attendance, including children, to show support for the skate park.
“I feel like we’ve wasted these people’s time quite frankly,” he said.
Tyndall maintained that the location recommendation had to come from the parks commission.
Later, in the portion of the meeting dedicated to public comments, resident Andrea Lahr said skate park supporters had tried to talk to parks commission members in the hall after Weeg’s presentation.
“I have never been so rudely spoken to,” Lahr said.
She expressed frustration with the lack of options for children who wanted to skateboard.
“What the kids are asking for is a place to safely skate,” she said, “and they are asking that Berlin supplies that for them. They aren’t asking to run crazy all over the town. Everybody is so bent out of shape because they don’t want a skate park.”
Blair Parsons told the council she lived near the park on Kenwood Court. She said she’d skateboarded as a child and wanted to see a skateboarding facility in town but questioned Stephen Decatur Park as the location.
“Putting it next to a nature pond that has been created as a green space for walking I think takes from the beauty and nature aspects of the park,” she said. “I was looking at my backyard today and imaging a giant concrete structure. I think it would take away from the charm of what is one of the best green spaces that we have in town.”
Resident Kim Holloway said it was not fair that the skate park had been included on the agenda if there wasn’t going to be any action taken. She said it seemed as if the group was being thrown back and forth.
“It was a big injustice for them and their group and all of the hard work they’ve done,” she said.