By Kristen Coppock
MEDFORD — It won’t be long before skateboarders will be practicing their ollies, grinds and air grabs at Freedom Skatepark.
Work on the shuttered skate park is scheduled to begin later this month. It will reopen in the coming months as a dual-use facility, allowing BMX riders access for
the first time. Both groups will have individual schedules for using the sub-park.
The park was closed more than two years ago after its wooden ramps had deteriorated to levels deemed unsafe. Much of the sub-park has since been dismantled, and weeds have become overgrown in the space.
Renovations have been delayed multiple times since the township was awarded a $250,000 grant in 2010 through the Burlington County Municipal Park Development Assistance Program. The grant money is expected to cover most of the project’s costs, which include a $249,000 development contract awarded in December to Grindline Skateparks of Seattle.
The township had also earmarked about $35,000 to cover related professional expenses, such as site inspections, but spent only $19,000 of that money, according to Township Manager Christopher Schultz. No other municipal funds are expected to be used for the park’s rehabilitation.
Beth Portocalis, director of community affairs, said costs could be added if there is damage to unfinished structures. She is urging people to stay out of the construction site.
“If kids trespass and use the ramps before the concrete is set, that’s going to change the (purchase) order,” Portocalis said.
Construction could begin as soon as next week and is expected to take 30-60 days.
“It will be contingent on the weather,” Portocalis said.
Although township officials had hoped work would start last spring, an insurance issue caused the most recent delay. The municipality’s insurers wanted to be sure all safety precautions were being made, she said.
In the past, the township’s insurance policy that covered the facility included only skateboarders and in-line skaters. But young people who perform bicycle stunts were also using the skate park and had pushed for a public facility that could accommodate their sport.
Portocalis called the renovation “the perfect opportunity” to address the needs of all three groups, as the use of stronger materials should allow for BMXers. She said the park would be one of the first public facilities in New Jersey to allow both skaters and bikers. The closing of some other local skate parks could also draw a crowd to Freedom Park.
“There are not many left in Burlington County, so we have no doubt it’s going to be popular,” Portocalis said.
A public meeting was held in early 2011 to garner input from residents. The result is a park that will offer elements appropriate for beginning skaters and BMX riders, intermediates, and those in more advanced stages.
The renovation calls for ramps to be rebuilt with concrete, a sturdier material. A conceptual design by Grindline Skateparks shows a continuous ramp forming a bowl and other inclines, as well as stairs, railings and flat surfaces.
Officials plan to herald the skate park’s reopening with a public ceremony. They are seeking corporate sponsors in an effort to fund routine maintenance and future repairs. Sponsors will be given opportunities to advertise in the park.
Kristen Coppock: 609-871-8073;