Easthampton skate park plans take a hit due to contamination concerns at proposed site

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EASTHAMPTON — Plans for a new skate park in the city have hit a significant snag, as new environmental concerns for the proposed downtown location mean it’s unlikely skaters will “stop by” there. not so soon.

“Based on our initial conversation with our potential environmental consultants, we identified a few things that could impact the design of the park at the City Hall site, or that could cause us to assess other sites. “said urban planner Jeff Bagg.

Bagg said the site, at 32 and 50 Payson Ave. behind the Public Safety Complex, was decontaminated a long time ago – so long ago that building a new skatepark might require a reassessment of conditions during the design phase.

Bagg also noted that the site’s configuration for a skate park and proximity to Rubber Thread Pond could limit the city’s ability to manage stormwater.

“Depending on these elements, the size of the park might be too small to meet demand,” he said.

News of the potential environmental contamination issues came after an April 11 meeting where officials unveiled preliminary sketches and concepts for the 8,500-square-foot street and transitional skatepark. About 70 supporters of the project attended this first meeting, with another meeting due to take place in May.

During the meeting, Tito Porrata of Tampa, Fla.-based custom skate park design firm Platform Group said it was “incredible” to create something in such an underutilized site, even if it’s not there were challenges such as the small size of the park.

Porrata presented what he described as a “sample board” of a skate concept.

“It’s very difficult because there are high elevations and we are also flanked by certain environmental zones and easements that we have to be sensitive to,” he told the meeting. “If we encroach too far into that area, we’re going to pay a lot of money just to protect things and that has costs that could eat into the square footage of the proposed skate park site.”

Porrata noted that funding for the project comes with a multi-year vision and would be built in three phases with a potential trail connection to the Manhan Rail Trail in phase two and the proposed bowl addition for phase three.

For Easthampton Skatepark organizer Angie Falkowski and her group, the reunion was a great step forward. She said she didn’t feel discouraged by the latest environmental concerns. For nearly three years, Falkowski and a handful of others have rallied together to support the creation of a skate park in the city.

“Our first public meeting was very well attended, and I was happy to see not only skateboarders, but also BMXers, rollerbladers and parents,” she said. “Overall, I think everyone was happy with the initial design, but as expected, more ideas came from the community. A BMX rider mentioned the possibility of incorporating a pump track and I think it’s a very good idea if we can make it work.

David W. MacDonald Memorial Skateboard Park

If successful, it would be the second time a skate park has been built in Easthampton. Twenty-five years ago, Robert “Bob” MacDonald and his wife, Nance MacDonald, planned to create a skate park in honor of their son, David MacDonald, who died in a car accident in June 1997 at age 16 years old.

A few weeks before David died, he told his parents that he wanted skateboarders to have a place of their own where they could skate.

With the help of David’s friends, as well as an Easthampton motorcycling group called Scooters for Skaters, the MacDonalds raised over $20,000 to build the park. There was also a request to donate for the construction of the park in David’s obituary, according to Nance.

Just three months after his death, the David W. MacDonald Memorial Skateboard Park opened in Eugene F. Flaherty’s former municipal parking lot, now known as Millside Park.

“He was somebody. He was really important,” Nance said. “We think about David every day.”

A few years after it was built, the skate park was demolished and brought to Chesterfield, where it currently resides.

Mayor Nicole LaChapelle said she remembers taking her nephew to the city’s old skate park. She noted that the Easthampton Skatepark group explained in their petition via Change.org that Scituate Concrete Company had built the prefab skate park and had built hundreds of poorly constructed skate parks across New England, many of which were demolished in due to their poor condition or lack thereof. of functionality.

“I know that community projects need to be structured appropriately to honor the community and the responsibility of the city,” she said.

According to previous Gazette reports, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department cited low park attendance rates, but it is unclear whether this was the ultimate reason the park was demolished.

Previous articles indicated that once the city took over construction of the project, it did not consider all community input during construction.

Bob said they weren’t informed of the park’s dismantling and that one of the signs a family member created to honor his son was tossed. Although there were claims that the park was collapsing, he wonders why it is still erected in another community.

Still, Bob and Nance fully support the new skate park.

“There should be a place. They shouldn’t have to walk down the sidewalk or have people complain when they skate past businesses,” Bob said. “For this to happen again, we wanted to let people know there was one – we were the first in the area.”

Bagg said the planning department will likely explore whether Millside Park could function as the site for the new skate park if contamination issues thwart plans at the Payson Avenue site.

He recently found plans for a redesign of the David W. MacDonald Memorial Skateboard Park to be located in Millside Park in 2005-2008, which was never funded and ultimately never built.

The planning department has asked to be included in an upcoming Parks and Recreation Commission agenda.

Previously, the commission had determined that the Millside Park site was unsuitable for a skate park before moving forward one way or the other, Bagg said.

“We believe when we return to the community in May (for another public meeting) we will have a better update on the feasibility of either of these locations,” he said.

Emily Thurlow can be contacted at [email protected]

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