Board passes on skatepark decision
BRATTLEBORO -- The Selectboard is going to wait a little bit longer before deciding where it will allow a new skatepark to be built.
At Tuesday night's Selectboard meeting, the board heard the recommendations of the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board and the Skatepark Site Selection Committee. Representatives from both boards presented the Selectboard with their top four site locations, but after hearing about an hour of comments from Brattleboro residents who attended the meeting the Selectboard decided to wait a little longer before choosing a site.
The Selectboard members said they will schedule their own site visits to the four locations before making a decision on the long debated project.
About a dozen-and-a-half people came out to Tuesday night's Selectboard meeting to add their input on the site selection process. And if the board members were looking for guidance they probably came away from the meeting more confused than they were before receiving the recommendations.
Board members did not weigh in very much on how they felt about the proposed locations, but Selectboard member David Schoales said he wasn't excited about any of the four locations.
"As I read this, my conclusion is that, you did a great job of identifying the pros and cons, but I don't see any of these as places where it would be a good spot for a skatepark," Schoales said. "The cons in every one of them are really pretty intense."
And Selectboard member John Allen said the town would be "setting it up for failure," if the board chose Elm Street.
"There's so many negatives there," he said.
Brattleboro Skatepark Committee Chairman Jeff Clark, and longtime skatepark supporter Barry Lane, both agreed and said the Elm Street Parking Lot, which was the top choice of the Skatepark Site Selection Committee, was not the best location from the skaters' perspective.
"Putting a skatepark down there is almost like putting it out on an island and saying, 'Hey, you got it now,' and then two years later saying, 'They're selling drugs at the skatepark and it failed,'" Clark said. "It's possible but it would take vision, planning and action to put the whole package together. It can't stand by itself."
The Skatepark Site Selection Committee chose Crowell Lot as their second choice, but a number of residents from that neighborhood who have been fighting against placing the park in Crowell Lot for more than two years, reiterated their opposition.
And a few residents from Brookside Condominiums said they were opposed to the lower Living Memorial Park location, which was the committee's third location.
Skatepark Site Selection Committee Chairwoman Betsy Gentile said she thought Elm Street was the best spot for the skatepark, but committee members Elizabeth McLaughlin and Dan Sontag both said any of the four sites would work and were recommended by the committee.
The Selectboard established the seven-member Skatepark Site Selection Committee in December to look at all the possible private and public properties that could potentially support a new skatepark. After 14 meetings the committee looked at 41 different locations and then found that the Elm Street Lot was the best spot for the new skatepark. The Recreation and Parks Advisory Board on June 9 unanimously accepted the committee's report.
Using a numbered evaluation system, the Elm Street Lot received the most points, followed by Crowell Lot, and then two other spots at Living Memorial Park.
The proposed skatepark will be built with private funds. The Selectboard has said that no public money will be used for the project.
Supporters of a new skatepark in Brattleboro have been working for more than 10 years.
Supporters had a permit to build the new skatepark at Crowell Lot, but the group was unable to raise enough money for the project and its three-year permit for Crowell Lot expired. The Selectboard then appointed the Skatepark Site Selection Committee to find the best location in town for the park. The Brattleboro Skatepark Committee will now have to get a new permit once a location is found.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.
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