The Emmaus Action Sports Association presented designs to Borough Council Monday night to build a $200,000 skateboard/BMX park at the Williams Street basketball courts, the playground across from Emmaus Public Library.
This, they said, would give skateboarders and BMX (bicycle motor-cross) riders a place to go.
The March 21 council meeting was standing room only because the plan’s supporters, including many teenagers, came for the presentation.
Council Member Mike Waddell said that council had talks about a skate park many times before, but EASA came with the most complete plan to date, including architectural renderings for the park.
Council members agreed that the park was a good idea. It did not seem to be a lack of will that has stalled previous plans, but a lack of reputation.
"We're always told 'you can't do that here. Go home,’" said EASA member Ray Gurz. "This park would give these kids a safe place to go, that is up to code and a facility that is awesome."
Gurz, 35, started skateboarding in his own youth and became a professional. He said not all kids can or want to play baseball or football; some skate or ride BMX, but there are no legal public areas for people to practice these sports.
By providing a park, said EASA President Katie Gangwere, it would create an environment where youth can actively participate in these sports legally within the community.
But Waddell asked, “What do you do if [the youth] do act up anyway?”
Gurz suggested that the Borough could pursue fines and treat the skateboarders the same as any kids acting up at any other park.
“We don’t want to build a park and walk away,” Gangwere said. “We will do our due diligence by having an adult presence, too.” She said the skate park would only be open from dawn to dusk.
What’s the plan?
What council members liked most about EASA’s plan was that it won’t cost the Borough any money. Gangwere said EASA will raise the $200,000 price tag through sponsorships and fundraisers.
Michael Hammer, treasurer for EASA, said in an email, "We have about $1,500 currently, but we have purposely not done a lot of fundraising until we went through the proper channels with the Borough."
The next fundraiser is Bingo at Emaus Fire Company #1 on Sunday, April 17 at 1 p.m. The EASA website has information on purchasing tickets, as well as t-shirts and wristbands to support the project.
Architect and skateboarder Erich Hornung of David Hornung Architect Planner, Inc., Allentown, said there are two key ideas behind the park.
First, it will be built to scale, meaning it will be just big enough to accommodate Emmaus and not so big to attract outsiders.
Second, it will be built from concrete, not prefabricated metal, which does not last long and creates a lot of noise, Hornung said.
Council member Brent Labenberg said he was a little surprised at the scale of the park.
“The last time we met, they kids said they just wanted a few pieces of equipment to grind, now you’re taking over the basketball courts.”
The plan does call for retaining two regulation-sized basketball courts, but they will be repositioned.
Labenberg asked if the plan could be scaled back.
Hornung said it could be built in phases, one area at time, and that, Labenberg said, was a better idea.
“That way we can see if it works; if the kids use it and don’t act up, it can be expanded later,” Labenberg said.
During the presentation, an audience member interjected that the kids already build their own ramps all over, telling council whether they liked it or not, “your town is a skate park.”
“It’s not a matter of the kids using [the park]," he said, "it’s what council will do to bring [the skate park] to town.”