Skate park proposed off Mary Hogan Drive
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Parks & Recreation Department is seeking input from area teens and adults on a proposed skatepark that would be built off Mary Hogan Drive.
Tentative plans call for the new skatepark to occupy a 100-foot-long-by-50-foot-wide space situated just west of the basketball and tennis courts in the town recreation park. Parks & Recreation Director Terri Arnold said the facility could feature poured concrete endowed with moguls, inclines, declines and pyramids, along with a series of railings that are popular among skateboard enthusiasts. A BMX bike component could also be added to the plans, according to Arnold.
“It’s an important thing that the skaters design it,” she stressed.
With that in mind, town officials have scheduled a brainstorming meeting at the proposed skateboard site for Thursday, Sept. 18, beginning at 5:30 p.m. to get ideas from parents, neighbors and of course skateboarders who currently have no designated public spot at which to skate. Many now practice their sport on improvised and sometimes off-limits terrain, such as streets, driveways, public and private plazas, and parking lots. Consequently, some of those skateboarders have gotten into trouble for practicing where they shouldn’t. It was the predicament of one of those young offenders, whose case was reviewed by the Addison County Court Diversion panel, that drew the attention of Jim Ross, a leader of the Middlebury Masons.
“A young man came through who had been charged with skateboarding on public property — at the (Ilsley) Library in particular,” Arnold recalled.
Noting that Middlebury had no skatepark, Ross asked his fellow Masons to consider earmarking some of the organization’s investment income toward such a community project. They agreed, and last year pledged $30,000 toward an undertaking Arnold said could cost $75,000 to $100,000.
Organizers saw the Middlebury Recreation Park as a logical area on which to site a skatepark. But planning was postponed for much of this year while Middlebury officials and residents debated a broader proposal to erect a new recreation facility at the park.
Ultimately, residents voted to build the new recreation facility on land off Creek Road, prompting skatepark organizers to renew scrutiny of the recreation park.
“It really is a perfect piece of land,” Arnold said of the targeted site, noting it is relatively flat and would be in close proximity to the future home of Addison Central Teens (ACT). ACT hosts a teen center and organizes various youth activities in the Middlebury municipal building. That building will be demolished next year and new town offices will be erected at 77 Main St. Plans call for ACT to relocate to the recreation park “warming hut.”
Colby Benjamin, assistant director of ACT, is upbeat about the skatepark plan and its ability to attract additional youths to the teen center.
“We could get kids we might not otherwise see,” Benjamin reasoned. “I think that would be phenomenal.”
He believes current ACT regulars will play a role in planning and using a new skatepark.
“I think our teens will be excited about it and I hope the community will be excited about it, too,” Benjamin said.
Arnold pitched the skatepark idea to the Mary Hogan Elementary School board last week. The panel is receptive to the idea.
“The ID-4 Board is intrigued by the possibility of building a skate park at the proposed ID-4-owned site,” board Chairwoman Ruth Hardy said. “The project has great potential for creating a terrific resource for young people in our town, and the unique collaboration with the Masonic Lodge on a project like this is fantastic. The ID-4 Board looks forward to working further with Terri as she engages the community, applies for funding, and develops more concrete plans. We will consider the project more fully once more details have been developed.”
In addition to better defining the project, organizers realize they will need to come up with more funding to make it a reality. Arnold has already reached out to world-renowned skateboarder Tony Hawk’s foundation for grant support. Donations and fundraising events will also be needed to cover expenses, noted Arnold, who will make the pitch to various civic groups during the coming months.
Arnold, at this point, is guardedly optimistic about the project.
“I feel very good about the fact we have strong seed money to get us started,” she said. “A part of our community already believes in us. And others will follow, I believe.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]
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