Most of the voices heard at the PRAB meetings have been neighbors of proposed skateboard park sites. What is it about skateboard parks that turn reasonable people toward such seemingly self-serving behavior? What would people be saying if a tennis court were under consideration? Or a shuffleboard? Was there a similar furor when the swimming pool was relocated?
Since June, I have lived within 100 feet of the present skateboard park. My place is on the first floor, has south and west facing windows and a balcony on the west end. I have been able to observe and hear the action at the park, which opened the week I moved in and was dismantled in mid-October.
From my dwelling, the sound of the activity is noticeable, but no more so than the highway traffic and less so than the trains. Admittedly, it may be louder for people living in upper floors in my building. But I don't find it objectionable - and, in fact, I tuned it out along with the other sounds after I had been here a week or so. On hot days, when I closed my windows and turned on the air conditioner, I couldn't hear any of the ambient sounds - skateboards or cars and trucks, although I could still barely hear the train whistle!
I have not observed objectionable behavior on the part of skateboard park users. They arrive and leave the park on foot, not on board. They appear to respect the area by using the trash receptacles. They seem pleased when I and other walkers along the paths surrounding the park stop to admire the amazing things they do. Of course, there may be users who break rules, but where is this not true? That's why we have our police department - for enforcement. In fact, I imagine there is a fair amount of enforcement among the skateboarders, themselves!
My observation is that the park is part of a lively destination for neighbors and people from other parts of town. The skate park attracts not only kids of all ages, mostly male, on their skateboards, but parents with strollers and toddlers often accompanied their elementary age children who use the ramps to test their tricycles, scooters, and shoes! Around the corner is a tot-lot where young families gather. Nearby is the beautiful pergola where people of all ages find a shady spot to sit. Cyclists roll by on the trails, shared by walkers who use it at all times for recreation and for getting from here to there. Several days a week, local farmers spread their wares for shoppers from all over town to explore and purchase. And, of course, there is the river – and it isn’t surprising to see people of all ages on the bank with fishing equipment in play. It has been a pleasure for me to move into this neighborhood, a sort of commons, to be enjoyed by people of all ages. The skateboard park is a community asset, rather than a liability in this context.
Our community has responded to groups wanting a place for kids and adults to play hockey, soccer, baseball and other active sports. The Skateboard Coalition has been asking for a permanent park for over 5 years! They have been patient and persistent. Some of the earlier advocates are out of college by now! It is high time that as a community we support the PRAB’s well thought-out and long overdue recommendation when it goes to the city council. Located in the center of Northfield, the recommended location will reduce the noise element for residents in the area, and it will further the goal of providing an inclusive, community amenity, Riverside Park. Just as we’ve done for other active Northfield citizens, we owe it to our youth to provide a permanent place for those who enjoy skate boarding to practice and improve their skills!