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Skaters roll with selectmen's solution

(From left) Jack Trainor, Sam Fleck, Jack Podmore, Drew Meyer, Ben Podmore, Jon Meyer and Peter Dagett Reminder Publications photo by Danielle Paine
By Danielle Paine, Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW Armed with their skateboards, 150 signatures and months worth of research, seven fourth-grade boys will attend the June 5 selectmen's meeting with the hopes of turning a problem into a paradise.

At just nine and 10 years old, these elementary school students have been skateboarding between one and six years. Frustrated with their town's no-skateboarding ordinances and tired of commuting to skate parks at neighboring communities, the boys were led by nine-year-old Peter Daggett into action.

"Basically there is nowhere to skateboard without getting in trouble," Ben Podmore said.

Daggett's recently published letter to the editor of Reminder Publications, asking that the town allow them to fund raise and build a skatepark, caught the eye of Board of Selectmen Chairman James Driscoll who immediately contacted Dagget.

"They're an inspiration and we should encourage that kind of involvement in the town government," Driscoll said, commenting on the situation. "We do not have an alternative for these kids. They're a danger to traffic and pedestrians and themselves but I don't think we've been responsible by not providing an alternative other than saying go to some other town. I don't think that's fair."

The skatepark which the boys will propose to the Board of Selectmen will be a skaters paradise, full of half-pipes, quarter-pipes, ramps, rails, stairs and concrete pools. Along with this idea they will present more than 150 signatures on a petition as a show of community support behind the project. They have also spoken with local experts in the sport to gather research on companies that have been known to sponsor such efforts.

"We did get advice from Toby Parker, he's a pro skateboarder and we are going to suggest building a concrete park," Daggett said. "He gave us info for people who could give us ramps and other things for it like the American Ramp Company."

Daggett added that the American Ramp Company is currently involved in building a Northampton skate park.

Driscoll's possible solution for the boys was to work with the town in renovating a long-closed skate park inside the Pine Knoll recreation area. The property, purchased by the town some 13 years ago, is used for it's playing fields, basketball courts and summer camp. It is currently undergoing major renovations.

"We have already dropped some of the dilapidated buildings and we are repairing existing buildings there," Driscoll said of the improvements being made to Pine Knoll. "It has gotten a tremendous amount of usage with hundreds of kids going through that park each summer. The town hasn't had to sink a dime into it so far and we're trying to catch up with it now."

Driscoll added that he is awaiting the chance to meet the boys at the meeting where he hopes they will show the board that many people in town are in favor of the idea and could benefit from it.

"The power is in the number. I'd love for them to share their ideas with us and maybe we could sit down with them and see about making this happen," Driscoll said.

For more information on getting involved in this effort, contact Peter Dagget at 525-6432.