The wheels may be turning very slowly, but the idea of creating a skateboard park in Emmaus continues to roll forward.
A skateboard park in the borough has been discussed for years.
At Monday night’s borough council meeting, park proponent Ray Gurz was assured the idea still is very much alive.
Until recently, said Gurz, he had heard of no progress since late last year. He asked council how Emmaus officials are feeling about the idea of a skate park.
“I don’t feel the enthusiasm has waned at all,” responded council member Wesley Barrett. “We’re waiting to hear any more information you might have so we can work with you.”
Borough manager Shane Pepe said council members have been discussing the matter in committee as recently as within the last couple of weeks. He assured Gurz a skateboard park is at the top of council’s “interest level.”
But the manager also said council members want to be sure proponents still are interested, so “we can have a formidable partnership.”
Gurz, 36, is an Emmaus resident and a member of Emmaus Action Sports Association, which advocates creating a skateboard park.
The current plan is that Emmaus will provide the land, but those who want a skateboard park will have to come up with the money to create it. A skate park, promised Gurz, will cost Emmaus “zero money – it would all be raised by us.” In addition to fund-raising, he said the non-profit association will apply for grants to create it.
The opening of a park still may be several years away. “It’s very early in discussion,” said Barrett, who chairs council’s parks and recreation committee. “Nothing is close to being decided.”
Barrett encouraged Gurz to attend council’s parks and recreation committee at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday to continue discussing the proposal.
Emmaus Action Sports Association, an organization of teens and adults, had hoped to establish a skateboard park by this year. It initially estimated even a modest park would cost at least $250,000.
But on Wednesday, Gurz said a park can be created for much less than that. He said it can begin with just a paved surface and a few obstacles, adding skateboarders can construct some of the features themselves. He said a park in Wilmington, Del., was created that way.
“I don’t think we’re looking for the Bethlehem skate park here,” said Pepe.
“No, no, something smaller in scale,” agreed Gurz.
“We don’t need a really huge place,” Gurz told council. “All we need is a small plot of land.”
Emmaus came close to establishing a park more than a decade ago, but the idea died because those pushing it wanted an elaborate facility that would have cost up to $500,000, far more than the borough could afford.
In 2010, the association advocated creating a more modest park in the Williams Street Playground, across Ridge Street from Emmaus Public Library. Gurz said council member Brent Labenberg, as well as some neighbors, did not like that idea.
Barrett said Emmaus Community Park is being looked at, as is borough property near the intersection of Klines Lane and Minor Street. He indicated the drawbacks to both locations are they are not centrally located and may be too isolated to prevent “mischief.”
Barrett said a location must be centrally located, to deter young people from skateboarding downtown, such as in Triangle Park.
While Barrett stressed “using an existing park has not been ruled out,” the borough also is looking into acquiring or otherwise obtaining a property at an undisclosed location. Barrett said it could be used to create both a skateboard park and an outdoor ice skating rink, something Emmaus has not had for three years.
“We have been in some negotiations over a piece of property,” said Pepe. “That may or may not be something that comes to fruition. We’ve also been talking about a couple other spots. Is there a parking lot? Is there an area in another piece of borough land? It is important that we do find the right spot.”
Elaborating, Pepe said it should be a safe spot that can be monitored and controlled as well as a good recreational area for residents.
Gurz said almost every day someone asks him what’s going on with the Emmaus skateboard park. He said that includes parents of skaters, who want a skate park in their own town.
He said the skate park also would be used by people who enjoy doing stunts on bicycles and even scooters.