As a proposed skateboard park in Northfield continues to move forward, questions raised by area residents concerning noise pollution could delay the project’s schedule.
The city of Northfield has worked with interested parties for years to try to construct a skateboard park after an ordinance was passed in 1986 prohibiting skateboarding within the central business district. In 2006, a group of Northfield high school students formed the Northfield Skateboard Coalition. This group has raised $27,000 so far through fundraisers over the years as group members come and go.
The site for the skateboard park was debated and readdressed dozens of times before settling on Old Memorial Field. Within the around 14-acre park, four potential sites have been identified, with the planned project taking up between 3,000-4,000 square feet of a plaza-type park.
The project was in limbo for several weeks this summer until Pillar Design Firm was chosen as the designer. The city has been working with Pillar for several weeks now to nail down a concrete park design, working with the Northfield Park and Recreation Advisory Board and the Skateboard Coalition. The coalition has been hosting bi-weekly meetings to gather input from various groups, including neighbors in the area.
However, as the groups work together to create a design, there is another potential question to answer: Would a skateboard park in town create too much noise?
According to the Northfield Eastside Neighborhood Association, the answer could be yes. The association sent a letter to the city of Northfield and collaborating parties last week that listed concerns about building a skateboard park at Memorial Park. The letter, signed by 44 area residents, stated that residents had a concern about noise and suggested that the city hire a noise consultant to look into the project design.
“Depending on who you listen to, noise is either not an issue or a massive concern,” the association wrote in its letter. “Probably the truth lies somewhere in between. In any case, we hope you’ll appreciate that our concerns are grounded in actual research and experience. We don’t mean to suggest it’s impossible to safely construct a skate park within Memorial Park. We simply believe that it is crucial to do it right. The last thing any of us wants is a skate park that fails to meet noise standards or that doesn’t balance skateboarder and neighborhood desires.”
While the association is asking the city to hire a noise consultant, Skateboard Coalition representative Rob Hardy said the coalition won’t join NESNA in its goal.
“We neither support nor oppose a sound study,” Hardy said. “We simply decline to partner with NESNA in calling for one. Given NESNA’s history of unrelenting opposition to the skate park, it is far from certain that they would be a good faith partner in this effort. They have shown no willingness to support the skate board park in any way, so it’s understandable that the coalition would be hesitant to support them in calling for a sound study.”
Hardy said NESNA made the same request last October, and Nathan Knutson, previous chair of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, researched the issue and came to the conclusion that noise wouldn’t be an issue. His research showed that outside of a 100-foot circle, noise from a skateboard park would blend in with the rest of the environment, and even barking dogs make more noise than skateboarders. The Memorial Park site is far enough away from any homes that noise would hardly be noticeable, he wrote. Based on his report, the board chose not to conduct a sound study.
According to Hardy, the coalition is focused on fundraising and defers to the city engineering department and Pillar Design Studios to decide whether a sound study should be conducted.
He added that the park has many supporters within the site’s surrounding neighborhoods, so not all area residents agree with NESNA’s concerns.
Northfield’s Park and Recreation Advisory Board addressed the situation during its meeting Thursday.
“We need to think of the community around the park as well as the skateboard facility,” said vice-chair Grace Clark, adding that she would be interested in talking with a noise consultant.
Interim City Engineer Brian Erickson said while he was open to the idea, a consultant could cost around $3,500, and he didn’t know where to find the money for the project. He said it would be possible to take some money from the park fund, but he didn’t think it would be fair to expect the Skateboard Coalition to raise even more money.
He also questioned how there could be a sound study done on a park that hasn’t been built yet.
In the end, the board directed Erickson to work with Pillar about the possibility of hiring a noise consultant. Erickson will bring back more information at a later meeting.