Ideas flow at skatepark design hearing

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MANCHESTER — Area skateboarding enthusiasts were asked to bring their ideas to a public hearing on what Manchester's skatepark at Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park could look like, and did they ever.

The traditional components of the sport were represented, such as a concrete bowl, streetscape rails and an undulating "snake run" with bumps, twists and turns.

But so were ideas for giving the facility a sense of place — something that says "Manchester." Paul Kelly, for example, suggested a rail that looks like a fly rod, an idea that provoked an immediate "ooh" from those in attendance. Another attendee suggested a feature resembling a covered bridge. Concrete mounds in the park resembling the Taconics and the Green Mountains were suggested, as well as a "snake path" representing the Battenkill, complete with brook trout, and the use of locally-sourced marble.

Micah Shaprio, the lead designer for Seattle-based Grindline Skateparks Inc., led Tuesday's hearing. The Manchester Skateboard Committee, having raised more than $250,000 in donations to make the long-sought park a reality, chose Grindline from among three firms that responded to its request for proposals.

"Community involvement is the most important thing," Shapiro told the crowd of about 25 gathered at Town Hall for the meeting. "Our goal is to have you guys make an informed decision."

Shapiro issued comment forms to the audience, and provided an email address, inform@grindline.com, where more ideas can be sent. He plans to return for a second hearing in September with a few conceptual plans for the park, and another opportunity for community members to provide input.

In a brief presentation, Shapiro outlined the overall plan for a the skatepark, which will be built in phases where the basketball court now sits at Thompson Memorial Park. (Three new basketball courts with six hoops will be built in the area where the current skatepark now stands.) The first phase will be about 5,000 square feet, with a target of next spring for the start of construction. As money is raised, the park could grow as big as 20,000 square feet.

Shapiro said the goal is to build a park that appeals to the most possible users, so that there's room for beginners as well as features that will challenge intermediate and advanced riders. A safe flow through the park is important as well, he said, so that riders aren't colliding or all converging on the same space at once.

Those various needs were represented by the potential users in attendance, depending on how they see themselves or their children using the park.

Six-year-old Paul Pavala of Arlington, attending with his parents and siblings, said he wanted "something with vert" — as in a vert ramp, a feature that allows riders to soar high into the air and do tricks.

"He had to say it because I wanted a six-year-old to say it," his father, Dan Pavala, said.

Paul's mom, Melody Pavala, underscored the need for balancing the features for riders of all abilities. "Something approachable in the first phase is great. But I don't want to have to wait for the next phase to do something fun," she said.

The project can be followed on Facebook @manchesterskatepark, and donations are still being accepted. Those interested should go to Manchester Skatepark GoFundMe page or email Matt Langan at m_langan@yahoo.com.


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