By Lisa Loomis

Open Hearth Community Center representatives have secured funding and a locale suitable for a skate park in Waitsfield.

Open Hearth representatives will appear before the Waitsfield Development Review Board on November 13 seeking conditional use review for a skateboard park and a pavilion to be located on the west side of the Big Picture Theater in the parking lot.

The project will be reviewed as an outdoor recreation facility located in the Irasville Village District. Open Hearth is asking for permits to build a 450-square-foot halfpipe and pave 4,000 square feet of the existing parking lot. Additionally, Open Hearth is seeking permission to build a 225-square-foot pavilion between the skate park and the movie theater. The public hearing takes place at the town offices beginning at 7:05 p.m.


April Smith, a member of the Open Hearth board, said that this project is one of two projects that are ongoing with the organization's work in Waitsfield at and around The Big Picture.

"All our projects are focused on masterplanning work for Winter Park. We're working in synchronicity with the town on their planning efforts for that area. We've attended meetings and this work is consistent with their efforts," Smith said.

"The skateboard park project is consistent with our mission, our two-pronged mission including creating recreational facilities. In addition to the playground at the theater, we have a much bigger vision for what we'd like to see. This skateboard park is many years in the making and it's taken a very long time because we needed to engage with the state wetlands division to make sure we're adhering to the guidelines for development in the wetlands," she continued.


Open Hearth worked with state wetlands advisor Shannon Morrison several times to make sure the work in the wetlands was allowable. They moved the project out of the wetlands and onto the parking lot to accommodate the wetland rules, she said.

The project will encroach on some of the existing parking, somewhere in the range of five to seven spaces, Smith said.

"There's a masterplan which Broadleaf Landscape Architects have proposed which would delineate the parking better, and in that scenario there would be minimal impact on the parking. But technically, there is an impact. The theater owners are fine with it as are the owners of Winter Park and the surrounding landowners. Everyone's on board," Smith explained.


She said the skatepark would be built to take advantage of existing space and little used parking as well as maximizing space by being built around two large lights in the parking lot.

The skateboard park will feature pavement as well as a moveable halfpipe and other pieces. The park will be fenced and a security camera will allow for it to be monitored. Open Hearth has $15,000 earmarked for the project, which must be spent in 2008. Of that money, $5,000 was received from the Mad River Valley Recreation District and the rest was raised through donations and pledges.

Another piece of the masterplan project, Smith said, is a broader educational and planning effort aimed at increasing awareness of the function and health of the wetlands which run throughout Irasville and which surround parts of the Winter Park development. Smith wrote for and received a competitive Vermont Community Grant for $9,950 which will allow Open Hearth to continue its planning work for that site and for the wetlands.


"The grant allows us to work with other community groups such as the Mad River Path Association and Friends of the Mad River and other stakeholders to come together and envision how we can enhance the wetlands in that area and educate residents and visitors about the function and value of wetlands. The money allows us to pay some consultants and to work with those other organizations on key components, including a pavilion. The pavilion will serve many functions, and serve as a gateway to the wetlands," Smith added.

She said Open Hearth planners envision the pavilion as the starting point of a path that loops through the wetlands and includes features which allow people to view wildlife and critical wetlands functions.