Skateboard park facing changes?

MANCHESTER- With the construction of the brand new "Park House" recreation building underway, the fate of the adjacent skateboard park has also moved its way up the priority list within the local community.

The park will lose roughly 10 percent and with it a jump that has some safety issues as a result of the replacement of the former Rec Park building by the newer structure.

Over 20 people attended a meeting on Sept. 20 at the Rec Park to discuss problems they have with the skatepark in its current state and what to do after the construction of the new building.

The beginning of the meeting focused on what is going on with the new recreation building, which can and will be used by the skateboarders. The idea is that if there is enough leftover funds from the construction of the recreation building they can either spend the money on the improvement of the skatepark or a "kiddie pool" to replace the older, out-of-date one currently in place.

As a result of the meeting, two new committees were created, one to handle the skate park and the other to oversee the kiddie pool.

The current kiddie pool is very unsafe, according to John O'Keefe, the town manager, who attended the meeting along with Liz Ambuhl, the parks and recreation director. It requires that a lifeguard must be on duty just for the kiddie pool area. The idea of installing a new kiddie pool is that it will be state-of-the-art with new technology that does not allow for standing water, making it a much safer environment for small children who use it, said O'Keefe.

The Skatepark has safety issues of its own. Equipment at the skatepark is overused, outdated, and unsafe, said O'Keefe. Talks focused around how to improve the skatepark and possibly build an entirely new one. Fundraising will be an integral part in making this idea work. Ideas were floated that involved advertising on equipment. This would include new jumps and replacing the older pavement with concrete specifically designed for outdoor skateparks. A re-design of the skateboard park is a possibility, as a result.

"It seems to me that Manchester is a community that promotes healthy outdoor activities for our local youth with its abundant parks and recreation facility," said Deb Zaccheo, a concerned parent who attended the meeting. "Yet the popular and well used skate park is in sad and dangerous disarray. With the new pool house sprawling into the existing skate park there has been some developing controversy of whether it is even worth saving. This meeting was an opportunity for skateboarders to have an official and public voice and the beginning of a chance to take a proactive stand for what they believe in, through the process of local government."

The skate park is also used by outside residents, as far away as Rutland and Brattleboro, O'Keefe said.

"There are a lot of out-of-town residents that use the park to the point that Liz [Ambuhl] and I thought that it would be fair during this conversation to make sure that the people who are interested in helping with this project are going back to their towns to seek some sort of funding for the skatepark," O'Keefe said.

"This is a big deal, its all our kids have," said Julie Isaacs, another concerned parent. "There are nice fields all around the skate park and this should be a priority."

Zaccheo believes the meeting will help make this issue a priority saying, "I think the meeting was positive and productive with the result being a coalition of skate board, scooter and BMX bike riders as well as parents forming to 'Save the Skate Park'."

The design of the skate park is yet to be decided.

"Layout is clearly important, that the skate elements and bike elements have flow," said O'Keefe.

There will be a meeting held Mon. Oct, 1, at town hall to discuss this issue further and how to progress the situation clearly.

O'Keefe was confident that this process will be figured out stating, "We will be working with them to package up the whole to create an image that is palatable for town meeting, for the business community and the whole community in general."


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