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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Is There a Skatepark in Brattleboro's Future?


It should never have come to this.

A skatepark at Crowell Lot was about a safe place for kids to roll around on their bikes, scooters and skateboards, a wonderful plaza. It’s not a hog farm or a strip club.

Skating is a rare and magical sport, where athleticism and art come together. It’s a way to get your heart racing, to challenge yourself, to express yourself. It’s largely free and gets kids outdoors and unplugged. It fills an important void for kids that do not play team sports or competitive sports. Skating creates amazing social bonds for kids of different ages and economic backgrounds. There is nothing like it.

And still there is an innate bias in our community against teenage boys. It cannot cannot be overlooked or ignored. (The 7-12 year old boys and girls often get left out of mental image of a skatepark). The decision to go back to site selection is simply the fear of the unknown overcoming common sense. This is about re-siting the park out of the neighborhood. None of this would have been an issue if it was a new tennis court or sprawling play structure in Crowell Lot. Trees? Noise? Maintenance Costs? Do you really think these were the issues?

The fact that Brattleboro has an ordinance prohibiting skateboarding downtown, yet will not provide a safe, secure facility speaks to the disingenuous regard we hold for our youth. 'Go Away' is the message we’ve sent.

I imagine it will always be an uphill battle when some Selectboard members view the discussion between opponents and advocates in the confines of the Selectboard room. After all, how many kids do you know that are willing to come 24 public meetings and stand up against the dedicated and well versed, albeit misinformed, opponents? (not to mention iBratt)

And to be very clear about the matter: this decision comes from only a select few and a host of Crowell Lot neighbors. To all those who have pitched in, who took time to support it we appreciated your effort, sincerely. To the School Board, the Recreation Board, the Development Review Board, Town Meeting Representatives, to current and former BASIC members: Thank You. To our wide range of donors: Thank You. To the advocates and skaters: Thank You, sorry there is not a park yet.

I truly hope that a site selection study uncovers an optimal spot for a park; a piece of town land that is central to downtown, accessible by bike, board or foot, highly visible, part of a mixed recreation facility and not cost prohibitive to build.

I also hope that the community finds volunteers that will take this project on. Volunteers willing to design, permit, fundraise and construct the park. I think we are still capable of it, but it will take serious trust and goodwill to believe that the Town is serious about getting a skatepark built.

Sincerely,

Adam Hubbard

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It'll come

I've both supported the park at Crowell and advocated for a better location.

The committee was put in an impossible situation - to create a park in a specific location that had not been fully vetted. I think that by having a proper site selection process, which doesn't need to take a long time, the pros and cons of many locations can be weighed and a site that has support will be found.

Crowell should certainly be in the mix, but as you say, the "optimal spot for a park; a piece of town land that is central to downtown, accessible by bike, board or foot, highly visible, part of a mixed recreation facility and not cost prohibitive to build."

I agree that if it were just about any other type of park-related project it wouldn't have faced the same objections. It's not that different than paving a big section for men to play basketball in my view.

With an approved site, I think the money will come. Carol Lolatte is amazing at fundraising for projects that have the wind at their backs.

The Town may need to offer up some parking spaces or other land to make it work. I hope creative, practical solutions are encouraged.

And you are right, it's time for those that want to resite the park to really step up and help resite the park. There's work to be done. And we want to raise enough to have that $100k bowl, right?

 
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"And your right" ??

"And you are right, it's time for those that want to resite the park to really step up and help resite the park".
I find this a little bit insulting after spending the past three years striving to get to this very point where there is now hope for actual comprehensive community input recognized by the selectboard. Les Montgomery

 
 #

Living Memorial park

There's more than several good sites within Living Memorial Park that are far enough from the NIMBYs in Brookside.
It belongs there.
At a Housing Authority meeting Monday, one of the residents jocularly suggested that it be built at Melrose Court when the new Red Clover Commons is completed.
The more I think about that, the less it looks like a joke.

 
 #

Remmeber those who offered to fundraise!!

I've been following this from way WAY afar, and all I would add is that you should please remember to call on those who offered to help fundraise for you if the park were indeed sited to be at a new location. The ReSite folks (Les and Brenda and Andy and so many more!) and stood up again and again and said how much they want a skatepark just not at Crowell Lot and that they would work towards fundraising. That could make a huge difference if those efforts actually do materialize!

 
 #

WHO will help?

One of the real questions, as I see it, is WHAT IF, after a thorough site selection process, vetting all possible sites available, the results STILL point to CROWELL PARK??? Will all the ReSite folks, some of whom repeatedly say it is not about the location but the 'process', then submit to this location? Will ALL of the ReSite group and their supporters then throw away those damn signs??? Or will they just keep beating the same ol' drums?

I would like to see all those against the Crowell site, who say they want a skatepark in Brattleboro, who say they want to support skaters, both boys and girls and adults of all ages, who say they 'would' help us if we just had gone through the proper 'channels' (vetting?), actually step up and DO something to make it happen. Sign up, help out, get on the committee, etc. There have only been 3-4 members of the public who have regularly attended the BASIC meetings over the last 3 years, I guess the others are waiting for their signal?

They said at the SB meeting that they had at least 30 people show up at their meetings, and they believe all, or most, of them would step up to help. Well, I think you all are going to have a chance to put your money, and manpower, where your mouths are. I look forward to seeing how that turns out... (AND to all those signs disappearing for good!)

 
 #

yes

"One of the real questions, as I see it, is WHAT IF, after a thorough site selection process, vetting all possible sites available, the results STILL point to CROWELL PARK???"

If a transparent public site selection process considers the actual content and suggestions contained in the Peter Whitley Guide for Development of Public Skateparks, arborcultural journals and professional reports that actually examined Crowell Park, along with the other sources of relevant expertise on, for example; parking, noise (vs sound), and public safety, and can then refute those questions and concerns with counter evidence and expert opinions, and then convincingly demonstrate to the opposition that no other possible option exists in Brattleboro, I suspect we will see any resistance that remains at that point, crippled.

That is what a legitimate site selection process often produces in project planning.

 
 #

Grievous Flaws in the Skatepark Siting Process

In my humble opinion, what really stood in the way of the Skateboard facility being sited at Crowell Park -- the point when it came to a head, anyway -- was that the Development & Review Board (DRB), in its June 2011 meeting, heard a finding from the Zoning Administrator to the effect that putting the skatepark at Crowell would be "a minor change to an existing facility", debated that idea among themselves, and then voted to approve the finding, all in a public meeting with a number of proponents and opponents present, THEN NEGLECTED TO RECORD THE 'MINOR CHANGE' FINDING IN THEIR MINUTES AT ALL.

The effect of accepting this finding was to avoid a larger hearing or more involved process -- a meeting to discuss just the skatepark site -- where the community could have stepped forward and brought more concerns and suggestions to bear. Larger, more involved community meetings are only required when the DRB is debating a "major change".

Now the plan as presented at that time called for a skatepark of perhaps 12,000 or more square feet (that's the 'footprint' of perhaps 6 three bedroom houses). To build it, the existing playground would have to be moved -- destroyed, really, because the existing one can't be put up elsewhere -- and another playground and/or play structure bought (or built) further down the lot, and then the baseball diamond would have had to be moved as well.

I'd say that's a major change, not a minor change, wouldn't you? More than one major change, actually. But the ramifications of that 'minor change' finding were not fully explained at the DRB meeting where it took place, and then it was never put into the DRB's minutes, so people couldn't look it up, read it, or challenge it if they so wished. In effect, this rendered the "minor change" finding unassailable.

Later in their June 2011 meeting, after hearing the concerns of a few people right there and then, the DRB retired to a separate room and came back, cutting off the community input stage of the meeting without explaining that was what they were doing, then promptly voted in favor of the plan.

Prior to the DRB getting involved, the skatepark plans had been brought to that point by the Town administratively rejecting other sites, then getting the School Board to approve a lease for the skatepark area, and -- at least two months before the DRB meeting -- putting up a fund raising sign at Crowell Park, which effectively announced to the neighborhood and community "Hey, we're here, and this is where we're putting our skatepark" without any opportunities offered to the community or the neighborhood to talk about it.

So in my opinion, and to put it mildly, enough mistakes were made in approving the Crowell Park site that the efforts to speed things along 'scotched' the community's due process, offended the neighbors, and sabotaged the project itself. I actually think BASIC would have been successful in raising ALL the necessary funds if only the 'rulebook' of community consideration and approval had been more strictly followed.

Enough looking backward. I was a skateboarder myself. I'll be happy to see a Skatepark at Crowell if, and only if, the community decides that's the right place. It's not enough to 'follow the letter of the law' in deciding such things (which the Town failed to do) ... we have to truly feel that we have 'threshed' this issue until we know the truth, as a community, together, about where this facility should be built.

So in my opinion, there was really no other option than to re-open the siting process, especially since BASIC must now bring an entirely new proposal forward. I wish BASIC good luck, and while I would not be able, because of other commitments, to be 'on committee', I would be happy to be invited to a handful of meetings for my input (I live directly across the street from Crowell Park).

Oh, one more thing ... the Town's laws on skateboarding are too restrictive. This is a small town, and we don't have to forbid skateboarding in all the places that we have. It's actually pretty common to see people on skateboards in the downtown and nearby, so whatever laws there are on the books are probably unenforceable. Should the Police Department put on traffic safety courses for skateboarders the way they have done for bicyclists in the past? And why not license skateboards for a small fee, the same way we do bicycles?

 
 #

Atop the Boys & Girls Club?

Next time you are on Elliott Street, take a peek at the large rooftop you can see between Hotel Pharmacy & Peter Havens. Wouldn't that make a splendid park? At one point long ago, there was a vision for a skatepark, outdoor dining area & benches, and small amphitheater. A ramp from the street might do double-duty to usher the skateboarders to the skatepark area on the Flat St side and make the park accessible to all. Why not?

 
 #

Olympic Moments

A few random items that for me connect to the local skatepark saga.

- Local skier Devin Logan wins silver in slope style.

-When NBC profiled Canadian Slopestylist Mark McMorris form Saskatchewan- a place that's geographically flat, they asked the question how a guy from here becomes an Olympic contender. The footage showed him skating around, and dropping in at his local skatepark.

-Bob Costas verbalized his infected eyesight when he said that the slopestyle competion was inspired by an episode of Jackass, and that Johnny Knoxville should be IOC president. A furor ensued, and I'm sure more than a few people were happy to see Bob take a break from broadcasting. Prejudices are hard to die.

-

Which leads to the question, what's happening with the local skatepark site search? Any news?

 
 #

Due for an update

We are due for an update on the site selection search at Selectboard meetings soon, I'd imagine. No word yet, though.

FYI, in the record books of the 1950's, the Crowell location was referred to as Crowell Playground, both words capitalized. I also found the Town Meeting minutes (1955) where Living Memorial Park was accepted from the Trustees of the Brattleboro Living War Memorial "to be used and developed for recreation purposes."

 
 #

SPSSC

The Skate Park Site Selection Committee will meet On February 20th, 5:15pm, at the Gibson Aikens Center(First Floor Conference Room at the left). As Always, the those interested are encouraged to attend.
The Skate Park criteria will be discussed once again as will possible locations outlined and color coded on large detailed aerial view maps of Brattleboro. One of the topics that will be brought up again is the question of the multiple use of various wheeled rides all concentrated into a skate park that will most likely be about 6500sq ft.(original design was for 10,000 sq. ft.) I believe we should start with a core skate park (not so much a playground) that includes features skateboarders want and desire and make it just that, then if future expansion allows or is provided for with extra land, add features that can accommodate other modes of wheel recreation such as scooters, roller bldes and BMX bikes, but let's not try and cram it all into Brattleboro's first skateboarding park to try and please all at once.

 
 #

The meeting

Good opportunity for someone to go, gather the list of sites being considered, and write it up here. It would be much appreciated.

 
 #

Info

Most of what is concluded after each meeting can be viewed on the town website under the Committees minutes or is written up in the paper soon after, but I will mention ibrattleboro should be kept abreast of any developments. I don't think they have refined the broad SP site possibilities list enough of over 32 possible choices to make any determinations quite yet without further research, but the process is in motion and the committee is embracing the task at hand so far, in my opinion.

 
 #

Skateboarders

I'm afraid to say in the fear of being less than politically correct on the topic of the skateboard park's inclusivity, but skateboarders are first in line here to have their needs addressed in my opinion considering the probable limitations of the groups expense budget and to me that should be one of the priorities and concentration of the committees mission when addressing constraints on the actual design that I personally believe can't honestly be a microcosm of all wheeled sports with out watering down or sacrificing intensity the skateboarders are requesting, especially given the one locale and size.
At this point, Scooters, BMX bikes and rollerblades have other outlets to exercise and are less restricted in our town than skateboarders are. When's the last time you saw a "No Scooters Aloud sign"? BMX bikes are more mobile, I believe there is even a large dirt track on the other side of the Wantastiquet riverside trail.
How compatible are all these sports sharing 6500sq.ft converging on the same space on any given day amped up with a wide range of ages and abilities mixing it up? To me the definition of what a small skateboard park is becomes blurred in a free for all, three ring circus. Actually, in a three ring circus there are distinct events featured simultaneously not all colliding with each other unless your talking about the clowns. If the skateboard park proves to be a success, then there could be room for expansion to eventually accommodate these other sports safely but for now let's deal with the original intent ( to create a great "skateboarding" park) at hand before we over indulge ala brattleboroesq at the expense of core quality.

 
 #

sight lines and smooth transitions

In the venn diagram of overlapping use, skateboarders can and do share a well designed space with other wheeled riders. And that's mostly the norm in parks almost everywhere. It mainly comes down to tone and respect as to whether there are collisions or co-existence. Much the way skiers and snowboarders share venues, a well executed park will serve a variety of users.

Some places have brought problems upon themselves by segregating the activities, and in my view this doesn't work nearly as well as establishing a shared environment from the outset.

I agree that skateboarders here are overdue for some prioritized civic action. If you consider the total amount spent on other sports in our schools, as well as the town Rec. budget, saying nothing of how skating has been thrust and kept in the shadows of illegality, it's certainly time for parity.

 
 #

Mixed Use

I'm sure you are correct that with the right design and adequate square footage you can have some overlap, but what we are dealing with is 6500 sq. ft. a good proportion of which will be flat space. I think ramps and bowls will suffer some reduction to maintain a certain inclusiveness but will consequently become boring for active skateboarders. It would be like having hockey practice, figure skating and curling event all in the same confines of one rink without a coordinated schedule for use it seems to me considering the size. It would be nice if we had the kind of room and expanse a ski slope offers, but that's just not currently the case although some expansion to the skateboard park could be a possibility down the line.

 
 #

Repeating what I said above

"At a Housing Authority meeting Monday, one of the residents jocularly suggested that it be built at Melrose Court when the new Red Clover Commons is completed.
The more I think about that, the less it looks like a joke."

At this time, no decisions have been made about the ultimate disposition of the Melrose property, except that it WILL not be used as Elderly/Disabled housing.

An advantage is that it is not adjacent to a dangerous hill.

 
 #

Melrose Park

A park in Melrose could be big enuf to accommodate scooters, bicycles, unicycles, etc, besides just skaters.

 

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