BRATTLEBORO -- The Skatepark Site Selection Committee is getting closer to choosing the potential land parcels the committee will visit as it tries to find the best location for a new skatepark. The committee met Thursday night and reduced the list from 42 sites to 26, and some of the sites remaining on the list are longshots.
The Brattleboro Selectboard established the Skatepark Site Selection Committee in November to consider every available parcel of land in town that might be appropriate for a new 5,000 square foot skatepark. The committee was formed after the Brattleboro Area Skatepark is Coming committee, or BASIC, voted to put off their fund raising efforts for a park at Crowell Lot. BASIC’s permit for the Crowell Lot expired and the group was having trouble raising the money for the skatepark.
The committee started the meeting Thursday with a comprehensive list of every parcel in town that could potentially host a 6,500 square feet space for the skatepark.
"We want to get this list down so we can visit these places in another month," said committee chairwoman Betsy Gentile. "I don’t want 25 places on the list or we’re going to get fried."
The list Thursday included sites that are too steep or inaccessible for the skatepark, as well as sites that are privately held, and town-owned sites that are used for parking.
After meeting for more than an hour, looking at each site on a map and then eliminating sites that would simply not work, the committee ended up with the list of 26.
Some sites were dropped from consideration because they are located on steep embankments which are not suitable for a skatepark. These locations include sites at the top of Cotton Mill Hill, a site on Chestnut Street and one on Elm Street near the Whetstone Brook. Other privately held sites are going to be looked at even though most of the committee members think it will probably not be possible to convince the land owners to give up their parcels for free. These include the Home Depot building on Putney Street, a number of sites owned by Cersosimo Lumber and parcels on the campuses of Austine School, The Brattleboro Retreat and at the Brattleboro Food Co-op.
Committee member Elizabeth McLoughlin said she thought it might make sense to remove the private sites from the list since neither the town, nor the group trying to raise money for the park, was going to have funding available for a land purchase.
"If we eliminate the sites that are private, because we don’t have any money to buy one anyway, then we whittle this list of 42 sites down pretty quick to a much more manageable size," McLoughlin said.
Committee member Andrea Watkins said it made sense to at least call the landowners to see if they might consider donating their land for the project.
"There could be some angel out there who, if the right site if chosen, might step up to the plate," Watkins said. "I don’t want to eliminate that possibility right off the bat."
In the end the committee kept those privately held parcels on the list for now.
Brattleboro Planning Director Rod Francis was at Thursday’s meeting to help the committee consider planning, ownership and zoning questions when looking at the sites.
The committee is also considering a number of locations owned by the town or town school district, which appear to have the strongest possibility for consideration because they come at no cost. These include Crowell Lot, the Elliot Street playground, Living Memorial Park, sites on the campuses of Brattleboro Union High School and Academy School, and at the Fort Dummer ballfields, which are also owned by the high school.
Over the next few weeks the committee members are going to call the landowners with parcels still on the list and see if there is any possibility they would consider giving up their land for the project.
At the committee’s next meeting, scheduled for March 13, the group hopes to get the list down to about 10 in preparation for site visits in the spring.
The committee has developed a criteria for evaluating the sites. Each member will score each site and then the committee will vote on the potential locations. A final recommendation will be brought to the Selectboard before May 1. The complete list will be posted on the town web site within the next few days.
The town is going to continue accepting ideas about possible sites for the skatepark. Suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or email@example.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.