Skate park in Freedom Park may face closure

Skateboarders and BMX bikers breaking the rules at the skate park in Freedom Park may be faced with consequences and possible closure of the park, township manager Chris Schultz said at last week’s council meeting.

“Skateboards are certain days and bikes certain days. They are disregarding that and are entering the park on the days they are not supposed to be in there,” Schultz said. “The other concern is they are not using personal safety equipment like helmets.”

Schultz noted how “uncool” kids think it is to wear equipment, with firsthand experience as the father of an 11-year-old.

“But it’s even less cool to get hurt,” Schultz said.

The conversation stemmed from the Burlington County Joint Insurance Fund renewal presentation.

According to Schultz, an injury may cost more than it cost to build the park, which was reopened last year with the assistance of a $250,000 grant from the county.

Schultz would close the park up to 30 days, but is “hoping it doesn’t come to that.”

According to Schultz, visitors violating the rules could face a three-, nine- or 12-month suspension from the park.

Additionally, council discussed possibly enforcing a registry with parents, confirming their children will follow the rules of the park.

“The registry will hopefully curb people from breaking the rules,” Schultz said.

The park was planned as an unsupervised one, citing the lack of staff to oversee guests.

“It’s a great facility but it’s a very risky sport,” Schultz said. “We have to be prepared for that one [incident] that could come to us.”

Schultz is asking for changes, otherwise he’ll be forced to close the park.

“The amenity is there for the public’s enjoyment, but we also have to ensure the township’s liability exposure is limited,” Schultz said.

There is no plan to permanently close the park.

In other news:

• Police Lt. Jeffrey Wagner provided council with an overview of the Hazard Mitigation Planning Process and how it will help homeowners in the long run.

According to Wagner, the planning process only includes natural hazards, fire, winter storms, flooding and how infrastructure will be affected.

“Storms happen, and we need to take a look at those hazards and see what we can do about it to brace those properties,” Wagner said.

“The township has gotten less than two inches of rain, and certain areas flooded anyway. We want to lessen the possibility of that happening and work with homeowners.”

According to Wagner, the only way to get the necessary money was by creating the Hazard Mitigation Planning Process.

“We have a lot of experience, and we’re good at our FEMA paperwork, but we need to cover all the possibilities,” Wagner said.

• Council continued discussion on tax abatement options for business owners.

The abatement program is in the works to help rebuild Main Street and other business districts in the township.

Council is working on the criteria to be met, including increasing tax payment by 20 percent over five years, the types of abatement programs business owners qualify for and launching the program.

• An ordinance regulating smoking in and upon public buildings and properties was considered on first reading.

Council has been considering the idea to ban smoking in parks and playgrounds, much like surrounding towns Evesham Township and Cherry Hill Township, both of which passed smoking bans.

• The Beau Rivage liquor license has been reverted to the township.

Council discussed putting the license to bid, but were unable to come to an agreement on the minimum bid, pending further research on the cost of area license.

The next township council meeting is scheduled for Aug. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Public Safety Building, 91 Union St.