Wheels and deals: town rolls ahead on skatepark hazards

Sean Potts of Vineyard Haven often uses the skatepark, and does not think it is hazardous. "Sure it looks weird, but nothing that can make you fall," he said. — File photo by Steve Myrick

Oak Bluffs officials expect to meet with officers of the Martha’s Vineyard Skatepark Association today, in response to an insurance inspector’s report recommending the skatepark be closed because of hazardous conditions.

According to town administrator Michael Dutton, while there are safety issues, there is little sentiment to close the park.

“Since the insurance survey was done, the park has had some clean up,” he said. “That’s a recommendation from one risk evaluator. We’ll take the specific issues and try to address those.”

In a letter to Mr. Dutton dated March 19, Trident Insurance recommended that the park be closed. Trident provides liability insurance for the skatepark to Oak Bluffs, which owns the park. Trident also insures all other town-owned parks. The skateboard park was built and is maintained by the Skatepark Association.

“The skatepark is a very positive thing for the community,” association president Elaine Barse said. “There’s going to be some grumbling, no matter what, but overall, we’re getting encouragement.” She said she expects to go over a checklist of things to be fixed, and move forward, at today’s meeting.

In the letter and the accompanying inspection report, risk control consultant Paul Chipman cited loose screws, splintered wood, debris, and other hazards.

Mr. Dutton said one of the biggest issues is a newly constructed “half pipe,” which sits between the concrete base of the skatepark and Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. It is also close to a Vineyard Transit Authority bus stop. The inspector’s report said the location of the new structure is too near the road, and may not comply with zoning setback regulations.

On a recent sunny afternoon, several skaters who use the park regularly said they felt safe skating there.

“I don’t think the skatepark needs to be shut down. Those things are minor and they could be fixed easily,” said skater Jesse Lindley, during a break from helping younger skaters learn how to improve their skating skills. He disputed the insurance inspector’s report that said there is no regular maintenance schedule for the park. “There is a big group of guys that show up on Sundays. That board over there was in sorry shape a week ago.” He gestured to a newly repaired ramp.

“It looks weird, but nothing that can make you fall,” said Sean Potts, who has used the skatepark for more than two years.

His mom, Christine McCue Potts, said she is grateful for a place her son can skate safely and get instruction from the local skateboarding community. “The only time my son got hurt was on our street,” she said. “He ran into a tree, and got a concussion.”