When school gets out, the Montclair pop-up skate park on the tennis courts near Rand Park fill up with skateboarders of all ages riding on homemade obstacles.
Now that vibrant skate community is about to get a major upgrade.
Soon-to-be Olympian and seven-time X-Game medalist Alexis Sablone, who studied architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been contracted to create brand new professional skate sculptures for the park.
Sablone, named to the first-ever USA Skateboarding National Team in 2019, paid a visit to the park to skate with the kids and see the space she’ll be designing elements for, on Tuesday, Jan. 12.
“It seems like a really used space and really vibrant skate community,” she said. “For me it’s an opportunity to get to design more things and contribute something to this space that hopefully will be used and loved.”
Paul King of Skate Essex, a non-profit skate advocacy group based in Montclair, first reached out to Sablone about a year ago after seeing her skateable public sculpture designs in Malmo, Sweden. She responded right away with her willingness to take part in the project, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a delay on things until now.
Thanks to a $10,000 grant from Montclair Township, Sablone will develop designs for the moveable skate sculpture and oversee the construction of pieces in partnership with the Montclair State University Department of Art and Design.
The idea is to have the elements be moveable and portable so they could be re-purposed into a design for a real skate park, should the Township and Skate Essex decide to move forward on creating one in the future.
“To try to create something that maybe I haven’t seen before and that’s really fun and opens up possibilities for skateboarders, that’s my goal,” Sablone said. “I’m happy to get to be here and meet all these people and see how they use the space.”
Sablone skated around with the kids and signed autographs. She even received a concept design for the park from 23-year-old Montclair resident and skateboarder Evan Eden. Eden, who studied landscape architecture at Rutgers University was delighted to meet Sablone who shares his both his interests in architecture and skateboarding.
“You don’t find a lot of skateboarders that have a technical profession, he said. “She’s a really awesome person.”
The Skate Community Finds a Home
In 2019, Montclair High School Skate Club passionately advocated for a skate park in town at several council meetings.
After doing some research and seeing that the tennis courts on N. Fullerton Avenue weren’t utilized as much as they hoped, the Township agreed to turn one of the courts into a temporary skate park.
The kids took it from there, bringing makeshift elements to skate on and creating a skate community.
“I pass by here all the time and I’m overwhelmed by the amount of kids that have been using it,” said Second Ward Councilwoman Robin Schlager. “We have playgrounds for young kids, we have tennis courts, we have a lot of outdoor activities, but we had nothing for this age group and the art of skateboarding, so it was time to do something for these kids.”
For Sablone, seeing the skate community in Montclair was encouraging. She didn’t have any designated skate spaces growing up or other skateboarders around.
“Skateboarding, the community and the friendships that come out of it are unparalleled. I think that spaces like these are really essential,” she said.