Letter Box Taking issue with the Reformer’s opinion on the opposition to the Crowell Lot as the location of a skatepark

Thursday October 4, 2012

Editor of the Reformer:

Regarding the Weekend Reformer editorial "Skatin by" (Sept. 29-30), I would like to say that your position that last Thursday’s skatepark design meeting was " ... the perfect opportunity for those opposed to the skatepark’s location to turn out and have their voices heard" was baffling, to say the least. Attending the meeting was bantered about by many opponents, but most people I communicated with respected that this was a design meeting, often noting that the Reformer itself had previously printed a notice that made clear the design meeting was not an opportunity for those opposed to the location to express their opposition.

Additionally, many, many letters to the editor, op-eds, and articles on the points of opposition have been published since for over a year expressing why people are opposed to this "plan." None of these well substantiated concerns has resulted in a meaningful dialogue. Rather, we continue to see what appears to be a "divide and rule" posture with a motivation that remains unclear, especially regarding who such recalcitrant rigidity serves?

Rather than suggest the time has come for opponents of a skatepark (in Crowell Park) to throw in the towel, why not look more closely at the sources of the growing opposition, and report on those? Clearly, good planning and adequate public process was dolefully insufficient, if the growing opposition is any indicator. Typically astute planning and thorough process yields community "buy in" to a public planning project, not organized rebellion.

Lastly, the opposition is intrinsically rooted in the deeply held subjective meanings and values associated with the concepts of "home" (vs. property), neighbors and neighborhood, and their relationship to both individual and community quality-of-life. How this has consistently remained so elusive is nothing short of fantastic. Any outcome better than what we currently see depends on acknowledging these concerns.

Barry Adams,

Brattleboro, Oct. 1 Editor of the Reformer:

I’m concerned about a recent editorial ("Skatin’ by," Sept. 29/30).

You didn’t take a stand on the Crowell skateboard site, but unfairly criticized those opposed to the site for not speaking up at Thursday evening’s "design workshop" meeting, sponsored by BASIC (skateboard park proponents). Worse was your general criticism -- branding some Brattleboro residents with typical attitudes and actions. Namely, when the ink has dried on a plan, the opposing people come out -- too late -- to express themselves.

The reason we opponents did not come, or speak out, if we did attend the "workshop," is because the a spokesman for BASIC, in a recent Reformer article, said it was not an evening to oppose the site. There were quite a few of us present, but we remained silent -- thus unnamed.

I’m glad we finally have the "RE-SITE" signs to help gain attention of the town leaders and residents. The process of choosing the Crowell lot for this project has been poorly managed by town leaders -- the Selectboard, the Development Review Board and the School Board -- for lack of creating an adequate open forum for the larger public opinion. It has gone much further than I ever expected.

When this site was chosen in 2010, I was shocked because of what seemed to be obvious reasons to reject it: Noise disruption for abutters, lack of paid safety supervision, possibility of noise, nuisance behavior by some individuals in a highly active mechanical sport and environmental changes -- disruption of the original park setting for quieter family activities, additional trash and absence of adequate restroom facilities.

I did not speak up at the time because I thought the project would not fly for lack of funds; meaning, BASIC would not be able to raise necessary costs of $300,000 by January 2013, the deadline set by the Selectboard. BASIC is far from their goal and they only have three months to go. Now, I am worried because I hear that town leaders have hinted to -- or actually given -- a time extension. Why?

It makes one wonder at the wisdom of our town leaders, to aid and abet this poorly thought-out skatepark project site. The School Board offered the site -- and all the headaches that could follow -- with a 20-year lease for one dollar. Aren’t we only asking for trouble down the line, when it may have to be closed for safety, cleanliness and behavior -- like the recently closed skate parks in Windham and Keene, N.H. What a waste of peoples’ time and money.

If the town wants to provide this kind of activity for our youth, let it pay for supervision, just like Memorial Park’s indoor skating facility and swimming pool; and place the site in the downtown Flat Street area near transportation and bathroom conveniences, away from residents.

Nancy A. Anderson,

Brattleboro, Oct. 1

Editor of the Reformer:

While Saturday’s editorial ("Skatin’ by," Sept. 28/29) admirably scrutinizes the big picture, and chastises Save Our Playground Coalition for their capricious form of public engagement, the author didn’t do much better in terms of veracity with a few central facts in this ongoing saga.

In the matter of securing the Crowell Park location, the Reformer’s timeline and cast of players was inaccurate. Truth is that BASIC did not exist as an entity, much less a town committee, until well after the location was chosen and secured. While members of BASIC did crucial work from that point forward -- raising funds, and shepherding the process through various agencies -- it should be well understood by now that the site selection came about as a result of an extended process initiated by skaters, Selectboard and Department of Parks and Recreation board members, with a noble stepping-up from the school board in offering the Crowell Lot. The people of BASIC in no way were involved in choosing that location, and should not be praised or blamed for that decision.

Also remiss, in my view, was the list of potential negatives, which didn’t seem fair or particular to skateboarding. Foul language and tobacco use is no more endemic to skating than it is to any other spirited gathering. And noise? On Western Avenue, conduit for logging trucks any hour of the day or night? And loss of playground space? At the design meeting it was affirmed, as it’s been since BASIC’s beginning, the relocation will result in more, newer, and better playground space. How positive change keeps getting translated as loss is a mystery to me.

A skatepark may not be a panacea for all the ills of youth in our town. But neither is it the nest of trouble that opponents would simultaneously have us believe, or suggest be more suitably sited somewhere else. With so much projection and conflict going on around this project, it’s vitally important to keep the facts straight. And to keep them separate from apocryphal viewpoints, or just plain fear-mongering.

Barry Lane,

West Brattleboro, Oct. 1


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