A skateboard park for Centennial Park won unanimous approval this week from the Department of Recreation and Parks advisory board and could be ready by mid-August.
County Executive Ken Ulman still must approve that project, which is expected to cost between $120,000 and $135,000, but he has already indicated that he likes the idea.
"The County Executive is supportive of the skateboard park," said Kevin Enright, spokesman for Ulman. "We feel like we've heard the concerns, and we feel like we've addressed them."
The matter is slated to go to a public hearing before the County Council on the capital budget on April 17. Last year's capital budget already contains $100,000 of the money needed for the project, so the balance of $20,000 to $35,000 would need approval.
"The popularity of skateboarding has risen in the last seven to 10 years," Gary J. Arthur, director of the Department of Recreation and Parks, said yesterday. "Instead of being its own cult, it's going into the mainstream. What we're trying to do is make skateboarding part of the traditional facility that would go into a regional park."
The 5,400-square-foot park would replace an aging basketball court behind the park's north entrance, off Annapolis Road.
The project had stirred opposition among residents of Century Drive and Old Willow Way whose homes back the park and who said they had only learned of the plans recently. Their fears were that the park would draw large crowds of skateboarders and that they would be bothered by the noise as a result.
Because the park is lower than the surrounding houses, it will be easier for sounds to travel, they contend. Some of the neighbors would like to see the park in the larger, southern section of the park off Route 108, which is not near houses.
But, because of the park's small size, Arthur said he does not envision it being a destination for skateboarders outside of Howard. Only about 30 skateboarders could use the facility at any given time, he said.
"I don't forsee people coming from out of the county to visit the Skate Spot at Centennial North," he said.
The proposed park would be open from dawn to dusk. Although it would be unsupervised, skateboarders would be required to carry identification cards issued by the parks department when they use the facility.
Skateboarders "are totally responsible for their injuries," according to parks officials, Arthur said.
Participants would be required to wear helmets and urged to use knee and elbow pads, Arthur said. Parents of youth younger than 18 would be required to sign a waiver, and park rangers would make periodic checks to ensure that people were following the rules and had the required identification, he said.
The main users of the park are expected to be in the 12-to-14-year-old range, which means that existing parking of about 60 spaces would be adequate, since most of the users would walk, bicycle or be dropped off at the park, Arthur has said.