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Is Emmaus Ready for a Skate Park?

Group presents plans for making the long sought after park a reality.

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.

Around town skateboarders are known for grinding the edges of park benches at the Triangle, or riding around cars at the high school or in the parking lot between Wentz Hardware and KNBT Bank.

"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.”

Karl Eisenhart March 22, 2011 at 08:12 PM
Don't think it's just "kids" who will use the park. I just turned 40. I have a wife, two kids, a large house, a job and a couple BMX bikes. I can't work out at a gym because I get bored out of my mind. I can't just sit around because I just keep getting fatter. BUT I CAN RIDE! And I dont' think I'm alone. I think there are many people in my approximate age group who either still ride and skate or will again when the opportunity presents itself because it's great exercise and it's fun. That kind of adult presence...Tax payers with something to lose...should ease the fears of those convinced that the skatepark will be over-run by "biker gangs."
Linda March 24, 2011 at 06:03 PM
I don't have any children who would use the park but will contribute to any cause for the youth of this community to have a safe area to enjoy their activities. Linda H.
Rebecca Kapustiak March 29, 2011 at 07:26 AM
I am posting the mission statement that was developed by the youth members of the Emmasu X'treme Alliance. 1. give children and teens a safe place to ride and compete away from traffic. 2. to remove bikin, skate boarding and rollerblading from city streets and sidewalks therebymaking a safer environment for the publicand eliminate the property damage that can result whenindividuals engage in this activity in public areas. 3. to lessen neighborhood tension. 4. to promote physical fitness of children and teens. 5. to provide educational instruction on BMX biking and skateboarding activities. 6. to promote athletic competion and create a spector sport. Need I say more....I think they said it all. We jumped through every hoop that was put out for us. It came down to a stale mate of putting it in writing that it would be a public park.
Rebecca Kapustiak March 29, 2011 at 07:35 AM
Emmaus X'treme Alliance was the previous organization that tried to obtain a park in Emmaus. They completed phase one of developing a park behind Kline's lane but it came to a stale mate when the Borough would not put it in writing that it would be a public park. The Borough was also going through alot of political turmoil at that time. I only hope that they now follow though on the need of this town to have this park and that our work and the work of this present organization is not wasted.

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