Footbridge Park might be getting a makeover. Evie Tilney and Kaitlin Eamigh from the Blairstown Enhancement Committee (BEC), a nonprofit dedicated to the township’s improvement, shared their plans for a poured concrete skatepark with the Blairstown Township Committee on January 25th.
Tilney explained this particular project has some legacy. About 25 years ago a group of high school students came before the township committee and asked for a skatepark to be installed, but the proposal was rejected. These same skaters, now grown adults, are partnering with the BEC to make their adolescent dreams a reality.
At the meeting, Tilney showed visual examples of what the park could look like. The plan is to make the space multifunctional. Raised seating will be created to serve as an outdoor amphitheater and artwork can be incorporated into the skating surfaces. The seven concrete coal bins that line the area could be converted into life-size murals.
“These details can be very beautiful, not just the sort of dirty graffiti looks that people used to associate with skate parks,” said Tilney.
The pathway from the Footbridge Parking Lot down into the paved and grass areas is steep and gravelly. The new plans show the installation of stairs as well as a ramp.
“We would make it accessible to strollers, wheelchairs, folks with mobility issues.”
The park would be open from dawn to dusk but, during the summer months, hosting events or skate nights after dark could be a possibility. For this reason, the BEC will install solar-powered lights in the parking lot. Committee member Charlie Makatura added that cameras could be installed as well.
The BEC made it clear that they aren’t seeking funding from the township. The project is slated to cost between $300,000 and $500,000 and will be entirely paid for through grassroots fundraising, private donors and grants. If local businesses were to donate supplies, it would be substantial financial aid.
“There’s grant opportunities that are angled towards the arts aspects that people get into, in addition to community space for youth… there’s just a lot of different angles that we can take by incorporating a lot of different aspects and elements to this project,” explained Eamigh.
The township committee endorsed the plan voting unanimously for its support. “It’s a really, really well thought out and well-crafted plan… I’m very much behind this project,” stated committee member Walter Orcutt.
Former committee member and current Blairstown resident Joanne Van Valkenburg urged the BEC to contact the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) before beginning any construction. In 2019, the Paulinskill River, bordering Footbridge Park was reclassified as a Category One body of water which calls for a 300-foot development buffers. Van Valkenburg suggested the new Farm Meadows property on Rt. 94 to be used for the skatepark instead.
Tilney has an appointment with the DEP and replied, “I feel strongly about this being in this specific site, one because, there’s a precedent for it already, which by itself isn’t a reason to do something, but if offered, (provides) a more dynamic activity.”