Laurel residents could be enjoying the city’s very first skateboard park this summer if renovations to Centennial Park on Montrose Avenue proceed as planned.
Officials are scheduling several updates for the 20-year-old park, including a new playground, a path system with benches, new fencing and landscaping, said Mike Lhotsky, Laurel’s Parks and Recreation director.
“We naturally want to replace each park as it gets a little older,” Lhotsky said. “And we always wanted to do a skate park somewhere, but never had a site in mind. Over the years, we’ve had kids come in with parents asking if Laurel will have a skate park.”
Laurel Councilwoman Donna Crary (Ward 2) lives close to Centennial Park and said she requested a skate park in the area to offer a safe alternative to skating in the street.
“My concern was the skateboarders that come down Montrose,” she said. “They scare me very much because they come down the middle of the road. I like those young men and women – I don’t want them to get hurt.”
Crary said a skate park has been on her wish list for several years, and that she thinks it will be a positive addition to the community.
“Centennial hasn’t had any [renovations] in years,” she said. “I’m so excited.”
The main barrier to building a skate park in the past had always been a financial one, Lhotsky said, but with state funding of $202,500 approved on March 5 and $70,000 in city funds, Laurel will be able to design and build the skating area as well as make updates to the rest of the park. The skate park component alone will cost around $130,000, Lhotsky said.
The new playground will open in the next month or two and the 70-by-30-square-foot skate park is scheduled to be completed by June or July, Lhotsky said. The playground construction will take place approximately one year after several unexplained playground fires in Laurel, and Lhotsky said his department is considering adding security cameras to some of the city parks as a result.
A public forum about the skate park will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Laurel Municipal Center, 8103 Sandy Spring Road to give residents a chance to share their thoughts about it, Lhotsky said.
“Any time you do something a little bit new in one of the existing parks, you get concerns related to noise and parking,” he said.
Lhotsky said the skate park would be located near the back of Centennial Park and that the city is considering fencing off the area. Skate park users would need to register and receive a swipe card to gain access, he said, allowing the city to control access and regulate the hours of operation.
“I think it’s an awesome idea, seriously,” said Bijan Stephens, 21, who lives on Montrose Avenue. “That would be amazing because there are a lot of youth right there in this area and they would really appreciate that. Nobody really uses [the park] right now.”
Jennifer Manzanarez, 18, lives next to Centennial Park with her four nephews who all like to skateboard, she said. Manzanarez said a skate park would be an improvement to the area because the park is under-utilized.
“There’s only us that really [play] there,” she said “They play a lot, and when we have visitors come they go to the park.”