People gather at the Crowell Lot last fall for a site visit with the designer for the proposed skatepark in Brattleboro. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro
People gather at the Crowell Lot last fall for a site visit with the designer for the proposed skatepark in Brattleboro. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer file photo)
Thursday March 7, 2013

The Brattleboro School Board has approved the design for a skatepark at Crowell Lot.

The board voted 4-0 to approve the design, which the town has been working on over the past few months.

The school board vote is the final regulatory hurdle for supporters of the Crowell Lot skatepark, after the Selectboard and the Development Review Board both approved the project earlier this year.

The board listened to passionate arguments on both sides of the issue for almost two hours during Wednesday night's school board meeting. Many of the comments were similar to those that opponents and supporters have been making during the long process leading up to Wednesday night's meeting, but it was clear that both sides realized the school board vote was likely the final public hearing for the project.

The Brattleboro Recreation and Parks Department is behind the project, but supporters now must raise almost $350,000 before any work begins at Crowell Lot.

Before the vote Windham Southeast Superintendent Ron Stahley asked Parks and Recreation Director Carol Lolatte if the proposed design met all of the pre-lease agreements that were made between the town and the school board.

Lolatte said the design did meet those agreements.

She said money will be raised to purchase a new play structure because the existing one will have to be moved.

The comments made Wednesday night were similar to those that have been shared throughout the process.

Opponents said there was never a public process to properly settle on the Crowell Lot.


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Supporters said they have been working on the project since 1997, and finally decided to build it at the Western Avenue location after a number of other sites fell through.

School board member David Schoales wanted to know how the Skatepark Committee did decide to pursue the Crowell Lot. Former Selectboard member Daryl Pillsbury said supporters looked at alternative sites at Living Memorial Park, Elm Street and then the West River Park.

Each did not work out, Pillsbury said, and the Crowell Lot eventually was the best option for a Brattleboro skatepark.

Skatepark designer Mike McIntyre explained that he worked with the Skatepark Committee and area riders to develop the plan that was presented Wednesday.

The group originally suggested a 14,000-square-foot park, which likely would have eliminated trees in the park.

Through the process, McIntyre said, he and the group refined the design, setting the bowl to the back and working to make sure no trees would have to be sacrificed.

The shape of the skatepark changed throughout the process, he said, and in the end the park that was proposed Wednesday ended up at about 11,000 square feet.

The school board let everyone speak, and after all the comments were made the board voted, and agreed that the design would work at Crowell Lot.

School Board Chairwoman Margaret Atkinson said that while the board was voting on the skatepark, there were more decisions to be made about the play structure, and about the landscaping in the park around the skatepark.

Alice Charkes is involved with a street mural project near Crowell Lot, and she said that project needed to receive local support before it moved forward.

She asked the school board to see if there is support in the neighborhood for the skatepark

Atkinson said there were many meetings held, and she saw both support and opposition, but she said there was a public process throughout.

And she said while the opposition grew stronger after the Development Review Board approved the project, Atkinson said there have been many opportunities for people to weigh in on both sides of the issue.

And Selectboard member Ken Schneck agreed that all of the legal and required steps were taken to reach Wednesday night's school board meeting

Before the vote School Board member Mark Truhan said he hoped this final vote was an opportunity for the two sides to get together to improve the Crowell Lot for everyone.

"This offers a real opportunity for people to come together," Truhan said. "You have an opportunity to turn this into a real jewel of a community park. Why waste your energy fighting each other?"