Fundraising for skatepark creation underway

Gabe Limlaw, 15, of Corinth, Vt., skateboards near the Bradford Academy building in Bradford, Vt., on Friday, June, 30, 2023. Limlaw serves on a subcommittee to fundraise for a skatepark in Bradford. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Gabe Limlaw, 15, of Corinth, Vt., skateboards near the Bradford Academy building in Bradford, Vt., on Friday, June, 30, 2023. Limlaw serves on a subcommittee to fundraise for a skatepark in Bradford. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Gabe Limlaw, 15, is a skateboarder who lives in Corinth, Vt., and serves on a subcommittee to fundraise for a skatepark in Bradford, Vt. He occasionally skateboards in town including in front of the Bradford Academy building on Friday, June, 30, 2023. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Gabe Limlaw, 15, is a skateboarder who lives in Corinth, Vt., and serves on a subcommittee to fundraise for a skatepark in Bradford, Vt. He occasionally skateboards in town including in front of the Bradford Academy building on Friday, June, 30, 2023. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

By LIZ SAUCHELLI

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 07-05-2023 9:26 AM

Gabe Limlaw started skateboarding around 3½ years ago because it seemed like a cool thing to do.

In the years since, the 15-year-old has improved his skills and formed friendships around the activity. But it’s not without its challenges.

“It’s kind of tough sometimes, because you go somewhere, just to try to skateboard, and a property owner or someone who works there will kick you out just because you’re having fun,” Limlaw, of Corinth, said. “It’s hard to find somewhere where you’re welcome. That’s a big issue.”

Limlaw is now part of the Bradford Parks and Recreation Commission’s Skatepark Subcommittee, which is working to bring a skatepark to Bradford. Last month, the Selectboard authorized the group to raise money and to design a skatepark on town land within walking distance of downtown. The Selectboard also designated around $200,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding, leaving the subcommittee to raise roughly $300,000 through donations, grants and other sources. The Selectboard asked that the group make every effort to have the funding and plans in place by 2025; if they haven’t, board members will check in to see what needs to be done to bring the skatepark to completion.

“We just didn’t want to leave it so it’s an eight-, 10-year project,” said Michael Wright, a member of the Selectboard who also serves on the Skatepark Subcommittee.

While official designs haven’t been drawn up yet, the skatepark will be around 7,000 square feet — about half the size of Rusty Berrings Skatepark in West Lebanon, said Jean Carlan, who chairs the Bradford Parks and Recreation Commission and is a member of the Skatepark Subcommittee. It will be made of concrete and maintenance fees would cost less than $1,000 a year, Wright said. The goal is to continue to fund the upkeep with donations.

The idea for the skatepark came from visioning sessions hosted by the Vermont Council on Rural Development in 2021, Carlan said. During those gatherings, residents spoke about increasing recreational opportunities and programming. Young people were encouraged to speak up, and one of their suggestions was to build a skatepark. The adults in the room quickly took notice.

“I guess it shows that there are people with more power than me, honestly, that are able to advocate for you to have something that brings joy and a lot of other things,” Limlaw said. Members of the subcommittee range in age from 10 to 59 and live in Bradford and surrounding communities. “A lot of time people don’t listen to minors when they have ideas. It’s good to have adults that represent those thoughts as well.”

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Gabe and his friends skateboard in downtown Bradford where they can find smooth surfaces and few vehicles, but it’s not ideal.

“You have to go to Barre or (West) Lebanon to get a good skateboarding session in,” he said.

There’s also an old stigma attached to skateboarding.

“They’ve been banned, outlawed, shooed away, signs posted that say, ‘No skateboarding here’: You can’t do your sport of choice here. Maybe it’s after hours in a bank parking lot or late at night at the grocery store parking lot or down the middle of the street sometimes late at night because there’s no other place to do it safely,” Carlan said. “And so it goes under the radar.”

Having a skatepark in Bradford will give kids a safe place close to home to practice. Currently, parents and youth alike struggle to find the time or transportation to get to skateparks.

“It’s tough to drive your kids from Bradford to West Lebanon skating after work because you’re exhausted and unfortunately, because of that kids, are not getting opportunities they need,” Wright said.

Wright, who grew up in Bradford in the 1980s and ’90s, recalled earlier efforts to bring a skatepark to town didn’t work out. His children, ages 5 and 6, have recently shown an interest in skateboarding and rollerblading, which they practice in their basement.

“This will provide a nice safe location for those interested in skating,” Wright said. “The real driving force of this project is the youth in the community who have wanted it for so long. Without the youth of the community pushing this project, it probably wouldn’t have gotten as far as it is today.”

People who rollerblade, rollerskate, ride scooters and bikes would all be able to use the equipment. Skateboarding is also relatively affordable, requiring a board, a helmet and other safety equipment.

“It’s an avenue for young and old people that don’t groove on team sports,” Carlan said.

Mark Rizzacasa, a social worker and self-described “aging skateboarder” who lives in Bradford, got into skateboarding in the late 1990s and early 2000s when pro skateboarder Tony Hawk was regularly on TV — and in videogames.

“That really drew me in. The pure fun,” said Rizzacasa, a member of the Skatepark Subcommittee. “I could tell it took a lot of practice and work and effort.”

His friends also took up skateboarding and they worked on their skills together, said Rizzacasa, who grew up in Milford, Conn. That social cohesion is one of the reasons he wanted to get involved in the Bradford effort.

“I think teens especially need a place that’s theirs, to have some ownership,” said Rizzacasa, who skateboards up to four times a week to exercise and relieve stress.

Rizzacasa, Wright and Carlan emphasized that it is important to provide opportunities for children who are not interested in team sports like basketball and baseball.

“Kids who are on the basketball or baseball team are trying to get better, and they enjoy spending time with their teammates, traveling around, celebrating wins and trying again when they lose,” Rizzacasa said. “I think skateboarding is the same, where everyone is trying to build their skills and hold up the other person when they fall and provide that positive support.”

It is important for teenagers to have places they can find community, Rizzacasa said. At skateparks, people of all ages gather to help each other learn tricks and teens have an opportunity to be role models for younger children. They fall and get back up, learning how to be persistent. They can release any pent up anger or other feelings through a physical activity.

“As a social worker who works with teens, I am acutely aware of rates of depression, anxiety, substance use and suicide. Skateboarding can help to find passion, meaning, value and hope that can spread into other areas of life,” Rizzacasa wrote in a followup email. “Getting sunshine, fresh air, movement, being creative, feeling accomplished and doing these things with others can be the foundation of mental health. Skateboarding hits all of these.”

For more information about the Skatepark Subcommittee visit Facebook: “BradfordParksandRecreation.” ​​​​​​

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.