New skate park is a hit on opening day


Staff Writer

CHRIS KELLY staff Jad Magazino, of Monmouth Beach, checks out the bowl at the SkatePlex in Long Branch. CHRIS KELLY staff Jad Magazino, of Monmouth Beach, checks out the bowl at the SkatePlex in Long Branch. Anyone driving along Ocean Boulevard in Long Branch may catch sight of helmets bobbing up and down on the oceanfront.

These would be the helmeted heads of youngsters, teens and young adults using the new skate park on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Ocean Boulevard that had its grand opening on Sept. 1.

“It was well received,” Laura Kirkpatrick, public information director for the Monmouth County Park System, said. “The kids were ecstatic that we finally opened. You could see them having a great time.”

SkatePlex opened at 1:30 p.m., and Kirkpatrick said that more than 600 people, mostly males between the ages of 10 to 18 from local communities, used the facility on opening day.

The skate park, a $1.5 million project, was constructed on 4.5 acres of land at Seven Presidents Park and was funded by the park system’s annual budget.

It includes an approximately 17,000-square-foot skate park for skateboarders, bikers and in-line skaters and a 75-by-185-foot skating rink.

“I’m happy it is here,” Ryan Sheprow, 12, of Monmouth Beach, said after using the facility last week.

His friend, Matt Petrone, 12, also of Monmouth Beach, said, “I’m excited about it.”

The skate park is a hybrid park, according to Brian Moore, sales manager with Spohn Ranch, the California-based firm that constructed the park. He explained that the facility contains a combination of in-ground concrete structures with above-ground obstacles.

“We had talked about doing a skate park for some time,” Kirkpatrick said. “The space in Long Branch seemed to make sense because it is in a high-use area, it is a pedestrian area [and] kids can walk there.”

Kirkpatrick said the county park rangers are responsible for monitoring the behavior of those using the facility. She said they have reported the biggest problem is enforcing the requirement that helmets be worn and properly fastened.

Mike Butler, 21, of Monmouth Beach, has been skating for 10 years and said he likes the park, but he won’t return.

“The rangers make you strap your helmet,” he said. “The older skaters and professional skaters should not have to.”

“Some kids don’t want to snap the helmets because it is not cool,” Kirkpatrick said. “If you are in the skate park, you have to wear a helmet [no matter what age]. It is for their own good.”

The skate park is open to the public, but it will be used for programs in the near future, according to Kirkpatrick. The park system runs more than 4,000 programs a year in which more than 80,000 people participate, she added.

She said an in-line skate clinic and skateboard-related programs will be offered in the spring.

“We haven’t decided on any special events,” Kirkpatrick said. “You do special events to drive up attendance, and we do not need that. We are focusing on programs and regular use of the facility.”

She said the skate park is a weather-dependent facility and will open and close at different hours every day.

“We are waiting to see about opening in the winter,” she said. “If it is a mild winter, it will remain open. We have to adjust accordingly.”

In the first three weeks, she said, injuries have been one broken ankle and one sprained ankle. The rangers are trained to handle emergencies, she said.

Kirkpatrick said she is happy with the positive feedback she has received about the skate park.

“Success is seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces,” she said.