In my day, skateboards had hard plastic tires and if you hit so much as a dime on the street you just created a new war story to tell. Well, times have changed and the sport of skateboarding is more popular than ever. There are pro circuits out there where these guys and gals do flips and twists with names such as nosehook impossible, tail tap, 50-50 casper or grind and ollie, just to name a few (a few that I could find online, but trust me when I tell you I’m well outside my element). Even though I’m outside my element, I recognize when someone is enjoying what they’re doing and having a blast while they’re doing it.
But where do these kids go to do what they love? When I was a kid we would walk to the top of a hill, tighten up the truck to reduce wobbling and let gravity take over. Some of the crashes were epic (war stories) and if you made it to the bottom in one piece you did it again. One day a friend of mine couldn’t get out of the way of a car and he hit it. Remarkably he wasn’t hurt in the least, the driver was shaken, there was no damage to the car and the driver said to us, "I wish they’d give you guys a safe place to do this." I wish I could say that’s where the concept of the skatepark formed, but it didn’t. We just climbed back up to the top of the hill and did it again. That happened in 1980 (give or take).
It would seem that there’s a lot more interest in skateboarding now than ever before. I see kids riding around all the time in the parking garage, parking lots, a little on the streets, where there’s a smooth surface to do an airwalk. This annoys people, I’m not sure why, but it does. I’m not saying that if one hit me I wouldn’t get ticked off -- I would. But out of the thousand times I’ve walked past these kids I’ve been hit by a skateboard exactly zero times. So lighten up. Still, it would be nice for them to have a proper facility to practice their craft.
So about two years ago BASIC was formed (Brattleboro Area Skatepark is Coming). BASIC, in conjunction with Brattleboro Parks & Recreation, sited the Crowell Lot as a place to build a skatepark. I remember my first thought being that it would be a great place to put it. But there are a few that would disagree.
Lately I’ve noticed the "Re-Site" the Skatepark signs up and down Western Avenue, and other signs that say "No Asphalt in the Crowell Lot" (Sorry, that’s already happened -- see the basketball court).
Hmmm, where is this opposition coming from? I have to say I fell a little out of touch with the skateboard progress but this is a conversation that is four or five years old and it’s involved the Crowell Lot for at least two years. One of the weakest arguments I’ve heard is that the site hasn’t been well vetted. Um, I think just by the sheer nature that it’s had a huge sign out in front showing the progress for two years vets it quite nicely.
I’ve heard all the excuses: It’ll bring down property values; increase vandalism and violence; create a parking problem (if we have 12- to 15-year-olds driving cars around, we’ve got bigger issues); it’s a fad (see my 1980 comment above); and, my favorite -- it’s going to be a big concrete eyesore (I can think of bigger eyesores than kids having fun).
As far as I’m concerned, the complaints are all bunk. It’s built on useless paranoia and ideals that had them walking to schools uphill, both directions, during snowstorms. To that I say this: The kids of Brattleboro have just as much right to this town as the people who put yard signs on their front lawns. I, for one, would love to see them have their park; it’s something that would be uniquely theirs and they would take pride in it and most likely police it themselves. So take your signs down and worry a little more about, oh, I don’t know, maybe reopening Brooks House?
What the Hell is Up with That?