Atlantic City could become the next city in America to build one of the popular recreational parks and many are coming together to help make it happen.
Atlantic City Weekly – By Jeff Schwachter
Read article at AtlanticCityWeekly.com
ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY — Jason Forslund remembers when he initially had the idea to build a skatepark in Atlantic City.
A few years ago, after finishing a surf session in midtown, he and his friends saw “a beautiful old rundown building on Pacific Avenue,” he says.
“The thought came to me, ‘Man, that would make a cool indoor skatepark!’ That was the beginning.”
Over the past few years, the 26-year-old founder of the Atlantic City Skateboarding Association and avid surfer has made it his mission to make his skatepark dream a reality.
First, he set up a Facebook account (which now has 1,600 followers). The Facebook page can be found by searching for “Skate AC,” a motto Forslund borrowed in part from the Atlantic City Alliance’s (ACA) “DO AC” marketing campaign.
Although there are a lot of skateboarders in the area — and even more who visit in the warmer months — there are not a lot of places for skaters to do their grinds, pops and ollies in Atlantic City.
The timing of Forslund’s founding of the skatepark association was perfect. In the fall of 2011 and through January 2012, through open forums, the Internet and board meetings, the ACA and Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) were seeking input from local residents and businesses with regard to the city’s new master plan and state-mandated tourism district.
During the late summer and fall months of 2011 Forslund had started to put together a basic business plan for the skatepark and via the Facebook page and word-of-mouth a grass roots effort began with support from skateboarders of all ages and from all over the country.
Forslund would soon learn that information about the positive effects a skatepark can have on a community and how to build them financially and environmentally friendly was spelled out quite clearly on several Web sites from around the world and jibed with what he hoped the skatepark would bring to Atlantic City.
“Since I’ve never been a part of a process like this I wasn’t really sure where to start,” says Forslund. “[But] my last job was privately funded and I was lucky enough to participate in creating the business plan for it, which gave me a little insight into how to put such a plan together. I spent some time reading through a couple Web sites that inform advocates on the process of getting your city to see the benefits of having a skatepark and what it takes to build one the right way. The amount of information out there is vast; advocates who are successful love to share their stories of success.”
Forslund believes that the project has a lot of potential to help bring A.C. a new attraction and serve as a new cultural hub for the city.
“If the park is well received by the people who come to skate it, like we anticipate it will be, the sky is the limit,” he says. “Atlantic City needs something that the younger generations can identify with and a celebrated skatepark is a perfect catalyst to get their attention. If promoted and programmed correctly, the A.C. skatepark will be a hotbed of creativity, athleticism, expression and culture. So much of A.C.’s image is the casinos and all the preconceptions that come with them. [Skateboarding] culture is the exact opposite.”
On Dec. 15, 2011, Forslund attended one of the CRDA’s board meetings. He decided to rise from his seat and address the board.
“The first time I spoke in front of the CRDA board I was pretty nervous,” says Forslund. “I don’t even remember what I said. But from what I hear it left a good impression with members of the board.”
Forslund’s first proposal, which basically stated: We need a skatepark and here is why, was included in a four-page business plan he had crafted.
The CRDA’s John Palmieiri, who had just recently been brought in as the state agency’s head, was impressed. Following the CRDA’s release of its tourism district master plan in early February 2012, Palmieri reached out to Forslund.
“I heard from the CRDA office a few weeks after they released the new master plan, which to my surprise, had a skatepark listed as one of 12 initiatives that the board had planned for Atlantic City over the next five years,” says Forslund. “The park was listed with a 0-2 year completion time.”
Palmieri, in an interview with Atlantic City Weekly, says the project, if approved, could be completed by “late summer.” He remembers when Forslund came to that December 2011 CRDA board meeting, just months before the tourism district master plan was due to be turned in to the state.
“When we went through the master plan planning process, we identified so many different kinds of non-gaming uses that we want to consider and really dozens of uses were identified,” says Palmieiri. “I think that Jason might have identified this as part of the master planning process, but beyond that process, he came in and talked to us … and kind of brought it to our attention.
“But as we began to think about it a little bit we determined that it might work well if we could deal with [the] public safety and liability issues. And I think that we can. I think that we’ll be able to figure that out and that is going to be important. We have been consulting with Tom Gilbert, our commander for the [tourism] district, and talked to the police officials about this, and so I think we’ll be able to figure out the right kind of plan. And these [skatepark] design-build guys know how to do it [right]. But yes, I think initially [the idea] came from Jason. … He came to a board meeting [and] we decided to follow up. And that’s the way the public process should work.”
Forslund says it felt great to have his idea taken seriously by the CRDA and that the organization has been fantastic to work with.
“My experience with the CRDA and its staff has been really refreshing,” he says. “At every meeting I’ve attended members would approach me and introduce themselves, ask what they could do to help me see my idea become a reality. I believe they took this idea so seriously because it just happens to hit every one of the tourism district criteria goals and new priorities for the CRDA and how it relates to the new Atlantic City: it’s non-gaming, it’s youth and family orientated, it gives back to the people of Atlantic City and it will help modernize the attractions A.C. has to offer.
“From what I am told, the park will be supervised at all times by a staff inside the park, which should give parents the peace of mind that their child will be in a safe and controlled environment.”