West Orange opens skate park at Jenkins

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — Chilly weather didn’t keep local skateboarders away from the grand opening of the West Orange Skate Park on Sunday, Nov. 12, as a crowd gathered at Jenkins Park with skateboards, scooters and bicycles for the ribbon-cutting and introduction of the halfpipes to the town’s parks system. The West Orange Township Council had approved construction of the park, which is located at the end of Rose Terrace behind the fire headquarters, at its July 11 meeting and work began soon after.

“It’s good to see it in action,” Recreation Director Bill Kehoe said at the opening. “It’s good to see people liking it; we were trying to get this done for a long time.”

Funding for the skate park’s creation was approved in 2010, but the project never moved forward because officials could not agree on a location. Though the skate park is now open, Kehoe said it is not quite finished yet.

“We’re going to add some lighting and shrubbery, maybe eventually add a few benches,” he said. “The contractors were able to finish quickly before winter and we didn’t want to say ‘no.’”

Mayor Robert Parisi was at the opening of the park to thank those who were involved with bringing it to life, and he said that it was nice to see the enthusiasm it brought.

“They certainly seem to be responding to it,” Parisi said at the event, referring to the crowd of skateboarders rolling up and down the newly installed ramps. “There was always a demand for this and our job is to provide something that will get them excited.”

People of all ages were at the opening of the park — children, teenagers and adult skateboarders alike shared the rails and halfpipes. Parisi attributed the park’s success to its location, saying Jenkins Park is the best place for it.

“We were trying to do this for a long time but couldn’t find the space for it; it’s always been limited in town,” he said. “This made a good location. It’s an underutilized park and it’s right next to the fire station which is open 24 hours for safety measures. It improves the park and, come the nicer weather, we’ll improve more.”

The skate park is also benefiting skateboarders from outside West Orange, like Montclair resident Alex Rohrs’ children.

“Usually we go to the skate park in Bloomfield, but we heard about this and thought we’d come check it out,” Rohrs said at the opening, mentioning that he and his family would probably come a couple of times each week.

“Something like this is great, depending on where it is,” he said, adding that he would rather have his children skate in a park than on the street. Since Montclair does not have a skate park, he has branched out into neighboring towns.

Councilwoman Susan McCartney was pleasantly surprised with the turnout at the grand opening.

“It seems like it has a positive effect,” she said at the event. The owner of First Mountain Preschool, McCartney said that she has seen how long it took for the skate park to become a reality.

“I had kids in pre-school that are now in high school who are out there skating and told me they’re excited about it, so I’m happy that it happened. I’m here shivering and they’re out there working hard and sweating,” she joked.

Parisi said that the skate park will offer something new to children, especially in West Orange.

“It gives kids options beyond basketball or baseball, and something to get excited about,” he said.

Kehoe agreed. “There are so many activities with sports,” he said. “This is a different form of recreation for the people who maybe don’t want to play baseball. There’s something for everyone.”

Photos by Amanda Valentovic