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New skate park effort just got rolling

GREENFIELD — A 37-year-old skateboarder has revived the search for a site on which to build a skate park in Greenfield.

Benjamin Miner of Chapman Street said he was talking recently with a friend who lives in Washington, who told him the city of Walla Walla has not one, but two skate parks.

“I was jealous,” said Miner.

Not for himself, he said, but for all of the skaters, ages 10 to 25, who have no place to skate in Greenfield at this point — no safe place, anyway.

In October 2010, the Greenfield Skate Park, which had been located off Olive Street for a decade, was closed down to make way for the redevelopment of the former Mix ‘n’ Match, now the Olive Street Lofts.

The town had also pulled its financial backing, deciding it could no longer pay the annual rent of $8,400, and that the structures there were unsafe. There were also sporadic instances of vandalism to an adjacent car dealership.

For a brief time, people talked about finding another spot for the park, but conversations seem to die as quickly as they got started.

Miner, who is working with neighbors Francesca and John Passiglia, began the effort by talking with Christy Moore, the town’s recreation director, and Eric Twarog, the town’s director of planning and development. Those talks are in the very early stages, though, he said.

“I’ve made them aware,” he said.

“I have written the mayor and he has asked me to make an appointment to come and talk with him,” said Miner. “That’s the next step before moving ahead.”

Miner also created a Facebook page, “Skate Greenfield,” which he says saw more than 230 “likes” in four days, and since its creation, about 345 people are talking about it online.

“There’s not much in Greenfield for teens and young adults,” said Miner. “Especially the ones who want to skate.”

He said Beacon Field, which is probably the most centrally located park in Greenfield, is geared toward preschoolers and ballplayers.

“I used to be a skater, so I know what these kids can do if given the opportunity,” he said. “I know most of them would get off the street and go to the park.”

Miner said he posted fliers around town last Saturday and took his skateboard with him.

“There really wasn’t anywhere to skate,” he said. “Greenfield is really flat and there are a lot of rough surfaces.”

Miner said there are a lot of parents who used to skateboard and would like to teach their children, but aren’t going to do it in, say, a bank parking lot.

“So, they take their kids out of town,” he said. “But that’s not convenient when the child wants to go practice and the parent can’t drive them to Northampton.”

He said one of the reasons he stopped skateboarding was because there was no place to do it.

“I can envision this as a park that not only kids would use, but families would use,” he said.

Miner said he knows a lot of people look at skaters as nuisances and problem kids, but should understand that the only reason they hang out on the streets right now is because they don’t have a place to go.

“We’re trying to change that,” he said. “A lot of it is just perception. Skaters are disciplined self-starters. They just don’t want to join soccer teams.”

Miner said he would love to see the town or a business or individual donate land for the park.

“I think we could then get a group together that would raise the money to build the park,” he said. “I think if the town got behind this and was willing to recognize this as a valid thing to do, perceptions would change.”

He said he isn’t talking about the town getting behind it financially, unless that’s something the town wants to do.

Miner said instead of posting signs all over town that tell skaters where they can’t skate, there should be a place where they can.

“You’ll never get every kid off the street, but I bet you could get a good deal of them,” he said.

Miner has already talked with the Sustainable Master Plan Advisory Committee about incorporating ideas for a park into the town’s new master plan, which is expected to be ready for a Town Council vote by the end of the year.

He said it may take a couple of years to get everything done that needs to be done to build a park, but at least people would be working toward the goal — and skaters would see that people care.

“We’ve come up with a short list of places, but there’s a lot more that has to be discussed before we get serious about any of them,” said Miner, who did not want to say where those places are, yet.

“Right now, I feel like we are telling skaters that the town is their skate park,” he said. “If they actually had one, I think it would make everyone happy, especially them.”

Miner and the Passiglias are in the process of building a Web site: www.greenfieldsk8park.org.

They are putting a call out for any photographs or videos of local skaters, which they will use on the Web site and Facebook page.

They are also looking for old skateboards or wrecked decks, which they plan to use for booth displays at upcoming events.

Email them at: greenfieldskatepark@gmail.com.

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