Mayor Richard Alcombright, left, watches as Adam Tobin and Councilor Kate Merrigan (who both worked on park at NBCC), Parks & Rec Commissioner Tim Koperek and Mace Donahue, 13, break ground ceremonial ground for the new skate park.
Guntlow senior Engineeer Charles LaBatt and Alcombright talk about some of the elements of the park's future expansion.
The park will feature elements such as a Hoosac Tunnel and Greylock War Memorial.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — It's been seven long years since a group of teens approached the City Council advocating for a skate board park. And even longer since skateboarders were limited to where they could manuel and kickflip.
But years are like weeks when it comes to government, said Mayor Richard Alcombright, standing on the footings that will hold the city's newest recreational venue: A skate board and BMX bicycle park.
"I think where we're at today kind of shows you what persistence will do," he said on a sunny Friday afternoon. "We've gone from initial discussions with our kids in the [Northern Berkshire] Community Coalition to bringing in other groups and other folks ... having conversations about the need, about the location, about the functionality. ...
"We had three locations and we chose this one. Obviously, it's just ideal in this current recreational site with the proper amount of space."
The park will take shape next week where the Modern Liquors building used to be. Pieces of the $676,000 skate park, funded by a state Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant and local match using Community Development Block Grant funds, will be put in place next Tuesday by crane.
The skate park will also open the area for further improvements including a planned spray park, bocce and pickleball courts and revamped basketball courts.
"The idea is to create a family park within the park," said Alcombright, one that would provide sightlines to watch children at the courts, playground, spray park and other venues.
The park designed by Guntlow & Associates features recognizable community landmarks like the Hoosac Tunnel and the Greylock War Memorial, pointed out by senior engineerCharlie LaBatt.
A pathway will lead through the park to connect to a modified version of the current walking path. The spray park won't happen for awhile, though. The city lost out on the last round of PARC grants but intends to apply again this year. Water infrastructure was put in place in anticipation of the expansion and the probability of retaining part of the Department of Public Works structure on the site for restrooms.
The mayor thanked John "Jack" Wadsworth for purchasing and donating the land to make the park possible and the owners of the Hot Dog Ranch for being good partners during the construction. He also pointed to Michael Nuvallie and former planner Makenzie Greer of Community Development, the City Council, DPW and Spohn Ranch Skate Parks, which worked on the park's development.
City Councilor Kate Merrigan, who worked at the time with the students in the UNITY Youth Leadership Program, said the challenge to the community was first laid out in 2010 when the mayor told the group if their was interest, he would pursue it.
"That group of kids had no skaters in it but they went to the high schools and surveyed students at McCann [Tech] and at Drury," she said. A majority of students also weren't skaters but they told the group "I want a place in the community where they're supposed to be ... this is the one place where we're allowed to be and supposed to be."
Merrigan remembered how an ordinance limiting skateboarding was passed when she was in high school.
It's estimated nationally that about 13 percent of communities are skateboarders, a percentage that rises as BMX is added in, she said. Part of teens research found that the city has a large "catchment" area that would attract people who skateboard or bike.
Even children at Stamford School in Vermont got in on the planning, offering the mayor ideas of what they would like to see in a park and where it should be located. Most Stamford children eventually attend high school at McCann or Drury.
Adam Tobin, who had been a UNITY program associate, attended the ceremony while visiting and plans to return next year to try it out.
He said he though it was tough getting everyone behind the project because there was a disconnect on how people who don't skate feel about skate parks and who they attract.
"I think our argument was, listen, there's a lot of kids in this town who want to do recreational activities that's not football or baseball or a sport you can do after school," he said. "And it's better for everyone if they're being productive in a positive way. Skating is still such a creative sport, it's not a back alley sport that a lot of people think it is."
Mace Donahue, 13, of Adams was there out of curiosity to see what the park would look like. It was hard to get to the one in Adams, he said, and he liked the what he was seeing on the North Adams' blueprints.
The park is expected to be completed by June 30 or possibly earlier if the weather's good. Alcombright said he hoped to have a ribbon cutting at that time. But he wanted a groundbreaking to let everyone know it was finally happening.
"I just wanted the community to know how important this is to the folks who worked so hard and the young people who have worked so hard to make this happen," he mayor said.
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