BRATTLEBORO -- The wheels are rolling in both directions for Brattleboro's long debated skatepark.
On the night of Wednesday, Feb. 6, about 25 people who are opposed to building the 10,000-square-foot skatepark at the Crowell Lot showed up at the Brattleboro School Board meeting to ask the board to take their concerns under consideration before approving the design.
Then on Thursday, Feb. 7, the town's skatepark committee unanimously approved a plan, which sets in motion the next step in the long and involved process.
With the committee's vote Thursday, the plan now will be turned over to the school board for final approval.
The Brattleboro School District owns the Crowell Lot and is retaining an option for final approval of the plan.
The zoning administrator and Development Review Board chairman will also be asked to approve the plan to make sure it conforms to the concept the DRB approved in 2011.
The Selectboard will have final say on whether the town will move ahead with the controversial project.
The town Tree Committee also has expressed an interest in weighing in on the final plan.
"This is a milestone. It is exciting for us," Brattleboro Area Skatepark in Coming, or BASIC, member Adam Hubbard said Thursday night after the committee unanimously endorsed the design.
Hubbard and Recreation and Parks Director Carol Lolatte talked with the designers over the past few weeks to iron out the final changes and Hubbard said he was very satisfied with how everything was resolved in the end.
He said the proposed park design fits in well with the landscape of the Crowell Lot and will offer area skateboarders a healthy and appropriate place to practice their sport
Over the past few months BASIC, and area skatepark supporters, have been working with ASD/Stantec Design to come up with a plan for the proposed park.
The final design will cost between $258,000 and $358,000, depending on whether a bowl is included.
BASIC needs to raise all of the money to complete the project. So far the group has raised about $88,000, but it has spent about $11,000 so far on design and permitting.
The BASIC members know there is still a long way to go, but they were united Thursday in signing off on the plan and said they were ready to step up fundraising now that they have an approved plan to show to possible financial supporters.
And while Thursday night's meeting was an important step forward for the town, the school board meeting Wednesday night showed that there was still opposition to the plan, and opponents feel like there is still time to relocate the skatepark to another site in town.
District 3 Town Meeting Representative Andy Davis told the school board that while the project has been discussed for years, it was not too late to move the skatepark to another area of town.
Davis pointed out that BASIC still has a lot of money to raise, and he said the fact that the school board retained its right for final approval of the plan shows that there was still time to look at the design and consider its implications on the park and neighborhood.
Skatepark opponents have complained for months that there was never a formal site selection process done and Davis asked the board to give the neighbors a chance to make their case against bringing the park to the Crowell Lot.
"It feels like this landed in your laps, and we feel like we have been left out of the process," Davis said. "It does not feel like this is too late in the process."
At Thursday night's school board meeting the board only gave Davis and the group 10 minutes to make their case, though they said the group would have other opportunities to talk to the board about their concerns.
Davis said even though a public walk-around was held last year, the concerns raised at that meeting were not taken into consideration. He said parents are concerned with moving the play structure behind a row of hedges, but that proposal still seems to be a part of the final design.
Davis also asked the board about parking, bathrooms, supervision, noise as well as the environmental and historic concerns of bringing the cement park to the site.
Windham Southeast Superintendent Ron Stahley reminded Davis that the town worked for three years looking at alternate sites before settling on the Crowell Lot, but Davis said it was "far from a flawless process."
Brattleboro Town School Board Chairwoman Margaret Atkinson said the skatepark approval was a "dynamic process."
"The school board has concerns and the things said here are valid concerns," she said. "It is a give-and-take process."
The school board will likely consider the design for final approval at a meeting in the coming weeks.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.