A Skate Park for St. Johnsbury? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

A Skate Park for St. Johnsbury?

St. Johnsbury, Vermont - October 18, 2007

A warm fall day, lots of friends, and plenty of of skateboards to go around. On a nearly perfect Thursday in St. Johnsbury there's just one thing missing -- a real skate park. If one St. Johnsbury Academy senior gets his way though, that will soon change.

Daniel Mattei is leading an effort to get Saint Johnsbury to build a cement skate park for public use. The effort is Mattei's senior capstone project, and something that hits close to home. He's been a skater for years and says living in the town made him realize kids need somewhere to go.

"There's not a whole lot to do in Saint J," says Mattei. "There's the movie theater and...the movie theater."

There is a small skate park in the town. Ramps built with plywood, and portable slide bars fill a parking lot behind Kingdom Outdoors on Railroad Street. The problem is that the asphalt has cracks in it and it's covered in this gravel, and without permanent equipment, it can easily move.

"All this wood is gonna like rot in like a year or two or whatever so we're trying to get like cement so like be more durable and it would last longer," says Simon Knutson, who is helping Mattei with the project.

Mattei and his friends have a lot of support, including local business owner Scottie Raymond, who co-owns Kingdom Outdoors.

"If you want to build a public skate park in a town like this I think it makes sense to try to build a destination, something that you know, can not only be great for the kids but that can actually push some tourism feasibly," says Raymond.

Mattei is using the tourism angle to gain more support for the project, and it seems to be working. He says six members of the select board are with him, and Parks and Recreation is on board too. Now, what he really needs, is money -- $50,000 to be exact.

Mattei is putting together a promotional video with footage of skaters using the current park. He'll use it to show potential donors how much enthusiasm there is for his idea.

Of course, not everyone is as enthused as he is. The site where Mattei wants to build the park did used to be a skate park. After problems with late-night skating and litter, the town closed the park down. Neighbors who live nearby say they don't want it to reopen. Instead, they suggest moving it to a better location that's further away from nearby apartment buildings.

Mattei says that won't be necessary though. He says with the effort the local skaters are putting in to simply getting the park built, he doubts they'll do anything to risk seeing it disappear again.

Raymond agrees, and he adds, "You know the fact is they can either be here where at least they're close to a phone, and they're close to somebody that can help them, or they can be in an abandoned warehouse on the other side of the bridge."

In the end, it will be up to the town to decide. Mattei is determined to make it happen though, and thinks he might be able to get work started, in a year or two.

Bianca Slota - WCAX News

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