Saturday September 29, 2012

If you talk to folks around town, you might find either they love or hate the idea of having a skatepark in Crowell Lot; not too many people are ambivalent about the project.

There are a number of good reasons for why a proposed skatepark shouldn’t be located in Crowell Lot, reasons that have been vociferated loudly since the Brattleboro School Board gave the OK for the location and the town agreed to maintain it once built.

Those reasons include, but are not limited to: noise; the loss of playground space; the impact on trees in the park; litter; bad language or bad behavior in the presence of young and impressionable children; tobacco use; etc.

There are also very good reasons for locating the skatepark in the Crowell Lot, and they include, but are not limited to: easy access; close to downtown; it’s public land; new swings and play structure will be installed; police can keep an eye on it from street level; no lighting so it won’t be used at night; etc.

The search for a location for a skatepark has been going on for a number of years, and volunteer members of a town committee spent long hours determining where best to site it.

Suggested locations included the in-progress West River Park (storm run-off issues nixed that idea), a parking lot at the junction of Elm and Flat streets (the town didn’t want to lose parking spaces), Living Memorial Park (not close enough to downtown) and the empty Home Depot building on Putney Road (again, too far outside of town and who knows how much that would cost to rent or buy?).

Eventually, the committee settled on the Crowell Lot, and through a number of negotiation sessions with the town School Board and the Selectboard, it was agreed that once the funds had been raised ($300,000, of which none will be coming from town funds), the skatepark could be built.

There were a number of public hearings organized by Brattleboro Area Skatepark is Coming, the Selectboard, the Development Review Board and the School Board, at which time many of the negatives and positives were aired out.

But not soon after the ink was dried, those opposed to the use of Crowell Lot came out in force -- in letters to the editor, to the Selectboard, at DRB meetings and phone calls and e-mails to the town offices.

One neighbor appealed the DRB’s decision to the Vermont Environmental Court, but dropped the case in exchange for modifications to the proposed design.

Some of these people did their due diligence and attended a number of meetings prior to the agreement, though many of them said none of their complaints were addressed (those who presided over the meetings replied that all of the issues were addressed in one way or another).

But as seems to happen often in Brattleboro, once the decision was made, accusations began to fly that there wasn’t enough opportunity for public input in the siting of the skatepark at Crowell Lot.

But as those who attended the numerous hearings (both for and against the location) can attest to, most of the late-comers didn’t attend even one meeting.

And now, surprise, surprise ... at a design meeting held on Thursday night, at which about 50 people attended, only one person spoke out about the location.

The Reformer has taken no position on whether the Crowell Lot is the best place for a skatepark, but it has often commented on the nature of the debate surrounding its selection.

Let’s just say the discussion hasn’t always been neighborly.

But it never ceases to amaze us how many people complain about a decision that, in some cases, has taken years to arrive at.

Thursday’s meeting was no exception.

It was the perfect opportunity for those opposed to the skatepark’s location to turn out and have their voices heard.

Even if BASIC finishes raising the $300,000 tomorrow and there is no turning back from the decision to use Crowell Lot, those opposed could have some input on design that would minimize their concerns.

But there comes a point when the towel must be thrown.

Is that time now for the skatepark’s opponents?

Despite the fact that only one showed up at the design meeting, we seriously doubt it. We are sure there will be plenty more rumblings as the process moves along.

Good or bad, that’s the Brattleboro way.