Skateboarders Design, And Will Oversee, New Park

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council last week approved the purchase and installation of equipment for a skate park designed with the help of skateboarders who requested the park.

The $96,000 project will be built at one of the two underutilized roller hockey rinks at Preservation Park near the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center.

“We’re actually getting pretty close to doing something physically visible, and that’s a great thing,” said Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara, who had asked to have the item pulled from the June 6 consent agenda for discussion. “I think we all remember some time ago when about a dozen or so young men came in here, shared an idea that they had and did a pretty good job of making their case.”

Hmara noted that the group came back for the budget workshop to make sure that it was approved and funded. “So, good for you,” he said. “That’s exactly what needed to be done. So now that you’ve figured out how to make government work for you, stay involved, OK?”

Another topic discussed was keeping the young skateboarders involved in the design of the park so that it would not fall into disuse, Hmara said.

“Ten years ago I understand we had a skate park and people stopped using it, and we don’t want to repeat that,” he said. “Part of the idea was that we’ve got these engaged young skateboarders. Let’s keep them engaged and have them design the park so it’s useful and it will keep them there.”

Parks & Recreation Director Lou Recchio said he has met several times over the past year with the skateboarders.

“It has been a year, and these gentlemen have been involved from day one,” Recchio said. “We went through the Recreation Advisory Board and presented it there. Obviously, they approved it with a recommendation for the council to move forward.”

From that day, the group has met about a half dozen times getting their ideas together, locating equipment design firms, doing design work and deciding what type of apparatus they want. “About a month ago, they sat down with the designer, the company that I’m recommending to you tonight,” Recchio said. “They did the design and came up with the final drawings. They had direct contact with the designer after that, in which I was not directly involved. They knew what the budget was.”

Recchio said one particular ramp they wanted was way over budget, and Recchio asked them to delay it for possible funding the following year.

“Everything is portable and can be moved around,” he said, explaining that the previous skate park had immovable structures. “That was the biggest problem in the past. It was built of wood and was a maintenance nightmare. This is steel with a coating that needs absolutely no maintenance.”

Another issue is oversight of the park, which Recchio felt the skateboarding group could manage.

“A couple of months ago, when we first opened Commons Park, we had an issue with skateboarders in the fountain plaza area,” Recchio recalled. “It just so happened we had a meeting that night, and I brought photos of what had occurred out there. When I showed them the photos, I said if this is going to continue, there is no sense in us building a skate park.”

Recchio said they assured him they would talk with other skateboarders believed to be skating in areas that are not built to tolerate the grinding and scraping nature of the sport, and persuade them to use the new skate park instead.

“I think with them actually working the process from beginning to end, with the agreement that they are going to police it themselves, it’s their design with the ramps and apparatus they wanted, I don’t see how we can fail,” Recchio said.

“It sounds like the whole process has been successful on their initiative,” Hmara said. “Now we’re going to count on them to continue to police the area so that it can be used for many, many years to come.”

Mayor Matty Mattioli asked about liability for the village, and Recchio said at the previous park, insurance required them to have a staff member issuing safety equipment, but the skaters didn’t want to be bothered with it.

“Things have changed,” Recchio said, explaining that the village is not required to staff the skate park and the skaters are not required to use all the cumbersome safety equipment they were in the past. “Our insurance carries it if we sign them in properly. There is a risk, just like there is playing football or baseball.”

The one piece of safety equipment that will be required is a helmet. “There will be a minimal fee for the year, and they will get a sticker that will go on the helmet,” Recchio said.