Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 48
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
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Weather Forecast

Skateboarders Defy Frigid Weather as Big Turn-Out Greets Skate Park

Dilshanie Perera

Despite freezing temperatures, some 250 young people clad in helmets and armed with boards could be seen Saturday morning taking turns on the various ramps, stairs, and quarter pipes that comprise the newly installed skating surface at Hilltop Park.

The Recreation Department toyed for a decade with the idea of building a skate park, but a recent county grant, entitled “Mercer at Play,” finally catalyzed the project. The Borough, Township, County, University, non-profit Princeton Parks Alliance, community members and organizations, as well as the Recreation Department all collaborated to fund the park, which cost $480,000 and was slightly under budget, according to Jack Roberts, executive director of the Recreation Department.

While skate parks are relatively rare on the East Coast, the kids assembled at Hilltop already seemed very much at home gliding and jumping on the smooth surface.

Recreation Department Program Supervisor Ben Stentz said that the number of skaters who came to the opening despite the cold weather “surpassed any expectation,” and a “rough count” showed 250 skateboarders present. “It confirms that there is an interest in the facility and that the park is going to get used a lot,” he added.

The first people to test the park were members of the Decked skate shop team, who prepared in advance for their demonstration at the park’s opening. According to Mr. Stentz, the team said that the “layout, quality of the concrete, and flow of the structure, that is, transitions from one element to the next, was right on the money.”

Simone Dublin, the manager of the Decked skate shop and skate team, called the layout “very interesting” and “appealing to the typical street skater” since “it’s fast, and it’s concrete.” She anticipated that members of the team would use the new park to train, especially since elements found there, like a quarter pipe and rails, are unique to the site.

Despite the sheer volume of skateboarding enthusiasts present at the park’s opening, order was maintained, with skaters of different abilities taking turns in an overall relaxed atmosphere. “They do figure out what the flow lines are, and they really do police themselves,” Mr. Stentz observed.

If the weather leaves the skating arena wet or icy, the Recreation Department will close the skate park and lock the gate to prevent skating on dangerous surfaces, but Mr. Stentz noted that “as long as it stays dry, it’ll be open until the sun goes down, year round.”

“One of the things that we’re really trying hard to get the word out about is that helmets are absolutely mandatory for every single person, regardless of age,” Mr. Stentz said, adding that the “enforcement of that rule will be pretty tough.” Other than that, the space will be unsupervised, and he anticipates that the kids will “take good care of it.”

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