Our opinion: Skatepark shows what's possible when Manchester rolls up its sleeves
Tuesday night at Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park, about a dozen young people on skateboards, scooters and minibikes converged on the town's brand-new skatepark. They zipped around the brand-new concrete structure, taking turns launching themselves off its ramps and taking cellphone videos of each other. Parents watched from the sidelines.
The new concrete structure, with its assortment of ramps and rails, will be officially dedicated on Saturday at 10 a.m. Even if you're someone for whom the constancy of gravity is a comfort, rather than an opponent to be defeated with equal parts applied physics and sheer nerve, you should see this park in person.
What's more, you should appreciate what your neighbors have accomplished in about 18 months.
Remember this: Two years ago, all that awaited skateboarders at Thompson Memorial Park was a collection of weather-beaten wooden ramps that showed the wear and tear of constant use and Vermont weather. Nothing about them said "safety first." They were beyond salvage.
Manchester wanted to do better. Several years earlier, at its Town Meeting, voters approved $50,000 in seed money for a permanent concrete skate park.
But sometimes it takes time for momentum to build, and for the right pieces to fall in place.
In this case, it was a Select Board meeting in February of 2018, when skateboard enthusiasts — some of them skaters, some of them parents of skaters — pointed out that years had passed without progress. They called for renewed effort. The Select Board agreed, a new Skatepark Committee was appointed, and the process of planning a permanent facility, and seeking the funds to build it, began in earnest.
That town and committee raised more than $250,000 in a span of months (including that $50,000 from Town Meeting), with some generous donations coming from area charitable foundations and individuals. Some graciously insisted upon giving to the effort without their names being used.
That generosity allowed the committee to move forward with a proposed first phase and part of the second phase all at once, in the hope that the park will generate enough use to warrant fundraising to complete phase two and the proposed third phase. (Given the committee's success so far, we would not bet against it.)
The committee hired Grindline Skateparks of Seattle as a design-build firm, took input at public meetings, and construction started this summer. Once underway, construction progressed quickly.
What's emerged is remarkable for its variety of features and attention to detail.
A section of the skatepark resembles the mountain valley in which we live, with blue-dyed concrete representing the Battenkill winding its way through "hills" on either side. There's even Danby marble, donated by Vermont Quarries.
There's another side benefit to what has emerged. As a result of the skate park and basketball court trading spaces on the park map, the park now has three basketball courts, including a multi-purpose court with pickleball lines.
They look great, and they're already popular with users.
Often, Manchester takes its sweet time before undertaking a project or an initiative, even when it seems like the obvious thing to do. This is a town that generally follows the dictum "measure twice, cut once" when making plans.
But when those plans do come together, Manchester is capable of achieving remarkable things.
The skatepark at Thompson Memorial Park is the latest such example, and the committee members and town officials who steered this project to completion should be justifiably proud of their efforts.
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