Brattleboro Selectboard names new skatepark committee


BRATTLEBORO -- The Selectboard has named the members of a new committee that will be charged with finding the best location in town for a proposed skatepark.

Joe Bushey, Jacob Allen Roberts, Betsy Gentile, Martin Fitzgerald, Andrea Watkins, Elizabeth McLoughlin and Dan Sontag will serve on the seven-member Skatepark Site Selection Committee which will assess all of the available land in town and make a recommendation to the Recreation and Parks Board.

If the Recreation and Parks Board accepts the recommendation from the committee, the preferred site will then be passed on to the Selectboard for final approval.

The Selectboard has set a date of May 1 for the committee to finish its work and make a recommendation.

"This is a huge step forward for us. We're very excited," said Brattleboro Area Skatepark is Coming, or BASIC, Chairman Jeff Clark. "I think when we are done with this we will have the town behind us and the Selectboard behind us and we'll hopefully be able to move on."

Selectboard member John Allen did not take part in the interviews, or in voting for the committee members Tuesday night, because he favored the Crowell Lot location and said he could not take part in forming one more committee to look at the skatepark issue.

Bushey, Gentile and Fitzgerald received four votes, while Roberts, McLoughlin, Sontag and Watkins were elected to the committee with three votes each.

Skateboard enthusiasts have been trying to get a skatepark built in Brattleboro for more than 10 years and the group had approval to build a park at the Crowell Lot on Western Avenue.

But after two years of battling with the park neighbors and failing to raise the money needed to build a park, BASIC voted unanimously to ask the Selectboard to name the new committee to reopen the site selection process and determine the best location for a new park.

"It was a very tough process for us to go through as a committee," Clark said. "Hopefully when we get to the end of this everyone will see why we decided to step back and let this happen. It will make it a cleaner process."

Thirteen people applied for the seven positions on the new site selection committee.

The Selectboard passed over three active members of BASIC (Melissa Clark, Linda Whelihan and Francine Vallario) as well as two members of the Resite Committee who were opposed to the Crowell Lot location (Andy Davis and Les Montgomery).

Clark said the Selectboard did a good job in putting together a committee made up mainly of residents who were not actively involved in the skatepark issue over the past few years, though Bushey has been a supporter from the start and Fitzgerald is a member of Resite, the group that was looking for a new location for the park.

"I am happy that the Selectboard chose people outside of BASIC and Resite to join the committee," Clark said. "It will make it a clean process."

Roberts is the owner of Equilibrium, a restaurant and health center that recently closed, McLoughlin is a member of the Planning Commission and Gentile worked on the Recreation and Parks Board and helped develop the new West River Park.

Sontag is the program director for a Western Massachusetts social work organization who said at Tuesday's meeting that his organizational skills would help the committee.

And Watkins is a former software developer who lives near Crowell Lot and goes to the park often with her child.

Clark said the group has spent about $16,000 so far on design work, and he said it is not clear if those designs will be usable going forward.

The park could still be located at Crowell Lot, if that is the site the committee recommends, in which case the design will be used.

But if an alternative site is chosen Clark said it might make the most sense to start over with the design to make sure the shape and flow of the new park fits well in the new location.

At Tuesday night's meeting Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein said that while the board was going to keep the number of people on the committee at seven, he encouraged anyone who was interested to attend the meetings, which will be warned and open to the public.

Recreation and Parks Director Carol Lolatte will work with the new committee, whose first order of business will be to elect officers and decide the best evening to hold meetings.

She is hoping to hold the first meeting in the first week of December.

The committee has been asked to identify the sites within the area that might support a skatepark and then establish a criteria and rank each site, setting weighted values for each criteria.

Lolatte said she will let the committee members make their own decisions, though she said town-owned, as well as private will be looked at, with the cost of any land purchase figuring into the committee's ranking.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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