BRATTLEBORO -- The Skatepark Site Selection Committee has determined its top choice for the proposed location of a new skatepark in Brattleboro.
The Elm Street Parking Lot, which is across the street from New England Youth Theater, rose to the top of the list using a numbered rating system that each person on the seven-member committee used while conducting site visits over the past few months.
The committee met Wednesday night and stopped short of formally voting on its top three or four choices, which will all eventually be turned over to the Recreation and Parks Board for approval.
The Recreation and Parks Board's decision will then be passed on to the Selectboard for final approval.
Though while the board did not vote on the Elm Street lot Wednesday, the site received 31 more points than the second most popular site and was clearly the top choice of the committee.
The committee developed a system whereby criteria such as location, access to transportation, cell phone service and topography were considered.
Each committee member then gave each criteria a point total from one to five during a site visit.
Each committee member then added up his or her total, and the seven totals were added up for a final count.
Each site had the potential of receiving 2,310 points from among the seven members using the criteria established by the committee.
The Elm Street Lot received 1,819 points
The Crowell Lot on Western Avenue received the second highest number of points with 1,518 followed by two sites at Living Memorial Park, which were very close together using the rating system.
A field at Brattleboro Area Middle School was also one of the top picks, though the committee members think it is a long shot to locate the skatepark near the school.
The committee also looked at locations along Cedar Street near Harris Hill Ski Jump, an alternate site at living Memorial Park, at the Brattleboro Common and at the public park on Elliot Street, as well as near Fort Dummer Field.
Each of those sites received fewer points and will not be considered as the town moves forward with the site selection process.
The Skatepark Site Selection Committee has scheduled its final meeting for Thursday, May 22, at 5:15 p.m. at the Gibson Aiken Center to finalize its choices before making a presentation to the Recreation and Parks Board on June 9.
The committee had hoped to make a decision Wednesday in time to present its choices to the Recreation and Parks Board next week, but decided instead to slow down the process to give neighbors living near the proposed sites a chance to find out more about the selection process and to weigh in on the proposed locations.
The committee also wants to discuss its criteria and choices one more time before voting on its top recommendations.
Recreation and Parks Director Carol Lolatte said it will be important for neighbors to have a voice during the upcoming discussions and she stressed that those opportunities will exist during the Recreation and Parks Board and Selectboard meetings where the skatepark is discussed.
She said she has already been receiving input from residents who have heard that their neighborhoods are being considered as possible sites for the new skatepark.
The committee had some discussions about how much use the Elm Street site might have in the evening.
Lolatte said if the park is built on Elm Street there would be no lights, but, she said, nor would there be gates, and with streetlights in the area Lolatte said the park might see use in the evening.
She did say the park would be closed after dusk and while she would not be able to control the after-dark use Lolatte said the skatepark would be closed and the police would be instructed to clear users out after dark.
Committee member Jacob Roberts said a skatepark could add to the positive activities in the area, and while Elm Street has its share of crime and vagrancy, a skatepark could be a way to bring more positive activity to the area.
Supporters of a Brattleboro skatepark have been working for more than a decade to find a suitable location for a new park.
The Selectboard had previously approved the Crowell Lot but the Skatepark Committee lost its permit there when the project was not started within the three year permit time limit.
After the permit expired the Selectboard formed the Site Selection Committee to determine the best location in town for the skatepark.
The Skatepark Site Selection Committee was tasked by the Selectboard to consider every available parcel in Brattleboro for the site of a new 6,500-square-foot skatepark.
The committee has been meeting since December to pore over maps, contact land owners, and visit the best potential locations for the skatepark, which supporters hope will be built with private money.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.