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Open Hearth Skatepark: accessible to all Valley kids

04/03/2008

By Brian Degen

The Open Hearth Community Center is in the process of creating a skatepark that will serve as a safe and accessible recreational outlet for Mad River Valley kids. Not all Valley youth are into skiing, hiking or soccer, and it's important to provide healthy outlets for kids to pursue their passions. Skateboarding is an increasing popular activity for many kids and young adults -- especially as winter snowboarders look for ways to pursue their sport during the warmer months.

For over three years, Open Hearth has endeavored to develop a skatepark that is safe, centrally located, properly scaled, easy to maintain, affordable and flexible in terms of its ability to expand or contract to meet actual usage patterns.
The skatepark will be located in the back corner of the parking lot next to the Big Picture Theater. This location was selected due to its accessibility to all Valley residents (many kids will be able to bike there), it's proximity to other youth-oriented facilities (such as the theater, the Couples Club, the Farmers' Market and the Irasville Country Store) and its visibility from Route 100. The Open Hearth board has been careful to locate the park so that it will be somewhat "self-policing" due to its public location, while not being overly obtrusive to the public view.
Open Hearth fully supports the Warren Concrete Skate Park and has shared 50 percent of all proceeds from carwash fundraisers to help fund a park that is easily accessible to Warren kids.

The Open Hearth, Waitsfield, skatepark is actually part of a broader vision for the Winter Park area (the land around the theater including the pond, the parking lot, and the open fields) to become a valuable recreation, educational and entertainment resource for area residents and visitors. Since the spring of 2006, Open Hearth has worked closely with landowner Ted Joslin, Waitsfield town officials, other local property owners, the Mad River Path Association, Broadleaf Landscape Architecture, and Shannon Morrison, District Wetland Ecologist for the state, to craft a vision that builds upon the resources of the theater, the pond and wetlands, and Mad Path, and is consistent with the Waitsfield Town Plan's concept of Irasville as the hub of activity for the Mad River Valley.

As part of the Winter Park master plan, Open Hearth has already funded and built the community playground and gardens next to the Big Picture Theater and has recently obtained a $10,000 Vermont Community Foundation grant for the planning of wetlands restoration and education, including a marsh loop path behind the theater that connects nicely to the Mad Path. Open Hearth has raised over $23,000 to date toward the construction of the skatepark, including a $5,100 grant from the Mad River Valley Recreation District.

The skatepark will be constructed from all-steel galvanized modular components with tamper-resistant stainless steel hardware manufactured by the American Ramp Company (ARC) that carry a 20-year warranty (see www.AmericanRampCompany.com ). The steel components are coated in a durable powder-coat paint finish that has the same "grip/feel" as concrete while offering superior corrosion protection.  These components, which include modular skating obstacles such as "bowls," "half-pipes" and "volcano hips" are designed to be custom-configured, altered and added to over time.

This will result in an initial park that is economical and appropriately scaled while providing the flexibility to expand and change as dictated by the popularity of the park. Approximately 80 percent of the municipalities that build skateparks with ARC choose the all-steel system due to its safety, grippy surface, less expensive maintenance costs, greater value and lower cost of ownership as compared to concrete and wood.

The skatepark components will be placed on a paved area of the back parking lot, accented with a small grassy area and picnic table, and surrounded by a split rail fence and several trees. An observation pavilion will overlook the park so others may enjoy the many tricks and moves on display. The Yestermorrow Design/Build School is considering construction of the pavilion as a summer 2008 project.

Open Hearth has obtained a local building permit from the town of Waitsfield, has addressed storm-water runoff matters with the state, and is in the final stages of obtaining a Conditional Use Determination from the State Department of Environmental Conservation. Further fund-raising efforts will be completed in the spring with construction and completion over the summer.

Brian Degen, president, and AnneMarie Harmon, Skatepark Committee chair, on behalf of the Open Hearth Board of Directors.

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