Bennington skatepark closer to reality thanks to Bennington Sports Foundation donation

By Michael Mawson, Bennington Banner

Read the full story on the Bennington Banner.

BENNINGTON — The town skatepark is one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to a $5,000 donation made by the Bennington Sports Foundation.

Members from the BSF met with the Bennington Skatepark Committee at Rotary Park on Friday – the proposed site for the 16,000 square foot recreational area – and presented them with a check.

“This whole project was really a community initiative from the beginning,” Bennington Community Development Director Shannon Barsotti said. “We’re so grateful to the mission of the Bennington Sports Foundation.”

The donation is part of a fundraising campaign launched by the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development’s Better Places program and is led by an all-volunteer committee with support from the town of Bennington’s office of Community Development.

The campaign – hosted by Patronicity – has set a goal of $20,000 by June 30. If met, the project will receive an additional $40,000 grant from DHCD’s Better Places Program. As of Monday morning the crowd-funding campaign total sat at $15,763.

“This crowd-funding campaign is unique,” Barsotti said. “But I think that this Better Places program has been very successful around the state.”

The community development director noted the success of other town projects in recent years that relied on what she described as a “public-private partnership” such as the splash pad and pocket park.

The Bennington Sports Foundation was created in 2022 to “fill an important need by finding and reaching our most vulnerable children to provide them with opportunities to be better engaged in the community so they may reach their full potential in school and life. We will do that by providing sports organizations with financial support to attract new participants, to hire teens to work in their programs and to provide curricula and research for program growth and development” according to the nonprofit’s website.

Phase 1 of the skatepark has an estimated total cost of $900,000. The park will be designed and constructed by GRINDLINE Skateparks, the same company that built the skateparks in Manchester and Burlington.

The project is being partially funded by $300,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds committed by the town. An additional $300,000 will come from the town’s Penny for Parks fund, which is funded through a one cent per $100 valuation charge on the annual property tax rate.

The Penny for Parks fund is contingent on the project raising $600,000. The fundraising plan was approved by the Select Board in January.

The remaining $300,000 is reliant on donations and grants. The project received a $200,000 grant from the Downtown Transportation Fund and has been invited to to apply for an additional grant totaling $10,000 from the Tony Hawk Foundation. VSECU also donated $10,000.

Both Barsotti and BSF members spoke on the community-wide opportunities that the skate park will offer. BSF board member Melissa Morrison said the skatepark project aligns perfectly with the foundation’s mission.

“As we’ve looked at our role in the community to help support programs – this was a way of really influencing a lot of youth,” she said.

“You often hear, ‘Oh, there’s not enough for kids to do,’” Barsotti said. “I think the skatepark is really going to help give a new opportunity and the overall design has been really thoughtful about how do you include everything?”

Select Board Chair Jeannie Jenkins was present Friday in her role as co-chair of the BSF.

“This is a real opportunity for the community, and we want to help make Bennington vibrant for kids and to give them new opportunities,” Jenkins said. “This is something that kids have not had. They’ve been skating at the Citizens Bank drive-thru. So this is a super, really wonderful opportunity for kids in this community.”

Barsotti is hopeful to reach their goal by the June 30 deadline. The updated plan would then go to the Select Board, and work could begin as early as this summer. The project would take roughly five months to complete. 

“We’re really excited to be able to help out with this and support this very worthwhile project,” said BSF co-chair Deborah Larkin. “And to let other people know that the Bennington Sports Foundation is ready to help other programs provide opportunities for kids to be involved who otherwise could not because of financial, transportation, hunger or other problems that keep them and their families away from sports.”