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New Parks & Rec director takes helm; temporary skate park concept introduced

by | Sep 28, 2023 | Featured: News, News

The Parks & Recreation Commission at its Wednesday meeting welcomed new department director Jon Lewitus to the department.

Lewitus, the former assistant recreation director for the town of Brookline, has been in his new role for five days and has been building relationships with other town departments. He is being assisted in his transition by interim director Pat Savage, who has been filling in for the past several months.

Temporary skate park concept generates enthusiasm

Hopkinton residents Steve Threlkeld and Kyle Reilly appeared before the commission with a proposal to create a temporary mobile skate park that could be located in an empty parking lot in town for limited periods of time. The duo previously contacted several town groups and organizations, including the Hopkinton Center for the Arts and Hopkinton Youth & Family Services, to seek their input.

Threlkeld described this idea as “a lead-up to the [skate] park construction” planned at EMC Park. That project has been delayed while the drainage issues there are being assessed.

“Since the old skate park was removed, there have been few legal or safe places for people to engage in activities that were formerly conducted in the park,” he said.

Threlkeld proposed holding weekend events in a parking lot that mirror similar skateboarding events held nationally called “skate jams.” There, skateboarders and BMX bike riders would have a place to perform their respective sports in a way that generates community enthusiasm, particularly among tweens and teens.

He offered to build the required equipment and ramps and remove them after the events, saying that all he needed is “a space sanctioned by the town for a discrete period of time.” Threlkeld had previously done this in Washington state, where he formerly lived, and he said he also served as a skate camp instructor in Puget Sound. He proposed eventually growing this into a formal Parks & Rec program. One suggestion for a space was the Marathon School parking lot.

Reilly added that these events would encourage young people to seek advice from older skateboarders in a relaxed setting in anticipation of the EMC skate park’s opening. It also can create cross-generational partnerships.

Chair Dan Terry expressed enthusiasm for the idea, saying that it would attract participants at all levels of the sport “at a grassroots level.” The department could potentially work with the schools to facilitate use of their parking lots.

One concern raised by Savage was liability for the town. She also asked if the department could rent equipment rather than use the equipment they build because home-constructed equipment may not be up to sport specifications. Threlkeld countered that the previous skate park was built by youth and volunteers. Savage said that while “it’s something that could definitely happen,” an engineered plan would need to be approved.

Impact of school facility fee spike discussed

Fees charged by the School Department for the use of its facilities by the Parks & Rec department tripled as of Sept. 1. This increase, Savage said, had not been anticipated and therefore was not planned for in the department’s budget process because there was no notification during that time frame. The department’s budget process began last October, and the fiscal year 2024 budget was approved at the Annual Town Meeting in May.

Terry said this increase will impact programming prices. Savage noted that the department is limited to expending $130,000 from its revolving account by the approved budget. This issue will be revisited at the next meeting.

Commissioner Amy O’Donnell expressed concern that “people will start to walk away” from programs at a time when the department is expanding its program because of increased costs.

Irrigation glitch at Town Common being addressed

Savage explained to the commission that the Town Common’s irrigation heads began to spurt water during the recent PolyArts festival, prompting a call to the irrigation company. This company had been contacted the previous week by department staff to ensure that the system would be turned off for that period of time, but the system malfunctioned.

The company will be upgrading the Wi-Fi system there from 3G to 5G when the irrigation system is upgraded. Work was approved to begin in the spring in a 5-0 vote.

CPC funding suggested for storage shed

Lewitus recommended that a storage shed be located at the pickleball/tennis court facility planned to be built off Fruit Street. He suggested that a funding request be filed with the Community Preservation Committee for Community Preservation Act funding for the project. The shed would prevent damage or theft of equipment, he said. This will be voted on at the next meeting on Oct. 11.

Grogan leaving department

Program coordinator Erin Grogan will be leaving the department as of Friday. Fellow program coordinator Colleen Allen will be taking on her duties until a replacement is hired. The duties of each coordinator position will be reviewed before the job is posted.

Library ‘read-in’ of banned books approved

The commission approved 4-0 a request from the Hopkinton Public Library to hold a “read-in” of banned books on the Town Common on Thursday, Oct. 5, from 5-7 p.m.

Library representative Danielle Cook explained that participants can bring their own chairs and books to read during that time frame. A limited supply of banned books will be available. People also can sign up for library cards there. Up to 60 people are expected to attend, and state legislators have been invited to speak.

Hearing regarding tree removal at EMC Park set

Savage noted that a hybrid tree hearing will be held Monday from 1-2 p.m. jointly between Parks & Rec and DPW director Kerry Reed, who also serves as the town’s tree warden.

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