Inspector calls for skatepark to close
In a letter to Oak Bluffs town administrator Michael Dutton, an insurance inspector recommends that the town's skateboard park be closed, because of hazardous conditions. The park, across from the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, is owned by the town of Oak Bluffs, but is managed and maintained by the Martha's Vineyard Skatepark Association, a nonprofit organization.
"We certainly understand municipal finances and the budget process which dictates what can be accomplished, and when," Paul Chipman, senior risk control consultant for Trident Insurance, wrote in an email to Mr. Dutton dated March 19. "Unfortunately, after a careful review of my findings and photographs of the conditions at the park, my recommendation would be to close it."
Mr. Chipman inspected the park on March 8. "The original wood framed elements are generally in poor condition," Mr. Chipman wrote in his service report. "Conditions noted include protruding wood screws, repairs with steel plate and angle (which pose trip and laceration hazards, open sides which can cause a boarder to catch a wheel and slide under the structure."
Mr. Chipman also noted a new structure which he said is set too near the road and a Vineyard Transit Authority bus stop. "Its riding surfaces are bare plywood, which is subject to splintering. There is debris (pieces of plywood and bicycle parts scattered in the surrounding area outside the park's perimeter."
Mr. Chipman said the park has had no regular maintenance or upgrades and should be closed.
Elaine Barse, president of the skatepark association, disagreed with many of the conclusions in the insurance company's report. She said the town carries liability insurance for the park, as part of its policy that covers all parks. The association carries no insurance of its own.
She said the park is regularly maintained and upgraded by Nick Briggs, a member of the association.
"He's there almost every week in the summertime." Ms. Barse said. "We do maintenance on it."
She also disagreed with the insurance company's recommendation that the wooden ramps should be replaced with pre-cast concrete.
"Cement is a little more burly," Ms. Barse said. "It holds up better, but it's three times the cost. That's typically not the best skating surface, that's why we didn't go with it."
The park was constructed by Breaking Ground, a Cranston, R.I., firm specializing in custom skateboard parks. Breaking Ground was founded in 2002, according to the firm's web site, one year before the Martha's Vineyard Skatepark was built.
"I agree that we need to meet with the town and discuss it," Ms. Barse said. "I don't think it needs to be closed. Otherwise we'd be having more complaints. In the past three or four years, there have been maybe two broken wrists, and a broken foot, the regular bumps and bruises. We've had nothing but positive stuff over the years. This is the first negative thing."
The Martha's Vineyard Skatepark opened in November 2003, following a 16-year effort that included securing a piece of town land and receiving $20,000 in seed money from Island towns and culminating in a massive fundraising effort.
One year later controversy erupted when bikers attempted to share the ramps, half-pipes, quarter-pipes and rails. After consulting with the town's lawyer, the Oak Bluffs parks and recreation committee decided bikes were not allowed under the town's liability insurance policy.