BRATTLEBORO -- The Brattleboro Recreation and Parks Board has unanimously approved a recommendation from a town committee to site a new 6,500-square-foot skatepark at the Elm Street Parking Lot, across from the New England Youth Theater at the corner of Elm and Flat streets.
The Recreation and Parks Board met Monday night to hear from the Skatepark Site Selection Committee, which has been working since December to find the most appropriate location in town for the skatepark.
The seven committee members considered 41 public and private sites and then narrowed their list down to 14, which the committee visited over a series of public meetings in the early spring. Monday the committee said the Elm Street lot was the best site and the seven-member Recreation and Parks Board accepted the recommendation.
The Recreation and Parks Board will now make its presentation to the Selectboard members, who will have final say over where the town will build the new skatepark. A date has not been set yet for when the Recreation and Parks Board will go before the Selectboard.
The skatepark will be built with private funds. The Selectboard has made it clear that no public money will be available for the construction of the park.
The Recreation and Parks Board voted Monday to accept the full list of four sites which the Skatepark Site Selection Committee said would be the best possible locations. After the Elm Street Lot, Crowell Lot received the second highest rating on the Skatepark Site Selection Committee criteria rating system. Two sites at Living Memorial Park received the third and fourth highest number of points in the committee's rating system.
About 18 people showed up to the meeting Monday, and a good number of those came from the neighborhoods near Crowell Lot to speak out against siting the park at the Western Avenue location.
Brenda Carr and Bill McCarty raised concerns about traffic safety at Crowell Lot and Western Avenue.
"The traffic situation at Western Avenue is an abomination, and it is getting worse," he said. "This is a significant issue and I think we all have to take that into consideration."
Former Brattleboro Police Chief Richard Guthrie said when he was working for the town Western Avenue was a dangerous thoroughfare and he also said the neighborhoods nearby often registered noise complaints, even without a skatepark. Guthrie said Elm Street was the best location for the skatepark.
Two long-time supporters of the skatepark, Adam Hubbard and Skatepark Committee Chairman Jeff Clark, both said the committee worked hard and that Elm Street was acceptable. But they both preferred Crowell Lot as a better location for the park. Hubbard said skateparks that are located within other parks are more successful and safe and he said he would feel better about leaving his children at the park.
"The successful parks are the ones that are vibrant all the time," he said. "The unsuccessful ones are the ones that are a little bit pushed aside, and a little bit difficult for parents to leave their kids at."
Clark also said he preferred Crowell Lot, pointing out that after all of the committee members' work, their second highest rated location turned out to be the same one the skatepark supporters chose four years ago.
Jane Sonntag, who lives at Brookside Condominiums off of Western Avenue said the residents there were not supportive of the lower Living Memorial Park location.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.