An unclear course set for Nashua skate park's move
Widely recognized in the skate community as one of the best public skate parks in New England, the Deane park is fated to be demolished in the coming years to make way for an ambitious development at the confluence of the Nashua and Merrimack rivers. City officials assure the skaters that a park will be built in its stead, but what that will look like - or where it will be, when it will be built or who will finance it - is up in the air.
"The plan they have going over there, if they're going to use the land that the skate park's on, they're going to have to rebuild one of equal or greater quality," said Bouley, 27, recounting the general belief of the skate community.
A carpenter by trade, Bouley has been going to the park since its construction in 2000. He rides BMX bikes, something that wasn't originally allowed at the skate park on the Nashua-Hudson border, which now hosts a healthy mix of bikers and skaters.
Bouley met his riding friends through the skate parks in Nashua, Litchfield, Merrimack and other towns. And while some municipalities have failed to maintain their parks, Bouley said the one in Nashua has long been considered the best in the state.
"It's just a better quality skate park for sure, like the transitions are really smooth," he said. "Everything's formed as correct as they can come."
That's thanks to sound planning on the part of the city. At a cost of $120,000, the Deane park was built by Team Pain, a Florida company that specializes in skate park construction. Bouley said when parks are built by standard cement companies they often don't get the details right - not so at the Nashua park.
"The way the park flows, you can drop in from any one side of the park now and turn around and keep going back in a circle - it's almost effortless every time," Bouley said.
On warm days it's teeming with people, regularly attracting skaters within a 50-mile radius. Bouley said it's common to see people from other New England states, even as far as Canada, visiting the park.
Less than 10 years after the park's construction, the city contracted Connecticut-based developer Renaissance Downtowns to develop the land the park sits on. Renaissance plans to break ground in the fall to develop the 26-acre plot - owned partially by the city and partially by a private interest - to include housing as well as retail and public amenities.
In 2009, aldermen authorized the Business and Industrial Development Authority to transfer the Bridge Street site. According to the minutes from an April 2009 public works meeting, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said, "If the David W. Deane Skateboard Park and the practice ball field needed to be relocated that the developer would incur the associated costs."
In spite of the mayor's comment, Renaissance and city officials claim the developer is not liable for the park's relocation.
Still, Renaissance insists that the skate park will be replaced.
"Under no situation do we see our development moving forward without a new skate park," said Jim Vayo, who heads Renaissance's Nashua operation.
Alderman-a-large David Deane, the park's namesake and the man responsible for the park's existence, raised the issue at a December meeting of the Planning and Economic Development Committee, saying it was his understanding that the relocation would be paid for by the developer.
Tom Galligani, the city's economic development director, said the legislation did not specify who would pay for the project.
"I can tell you something Mr. Galligani: You are going to have a revolt on your hands that the administration has no idea is coming," Dean said at the meeting
Galligani said Friday that the contract between the city and Renaissance stipulates that it's on the city to rebuild the park. Renaissance is likely to purchase the land, which he said has not been assessed. Whether the sale will cover the cost of the skate park is up the in the air.
He said the existing skate park - which cost $120,000 to build - adds no value to the land.
The mayor is forming a working group dedicated to relocating the skate park. Galligani would not say who would be included in the group. Asked for an idea where the park might be located, Galligani said, "I'm not going to give you an idea. It's too premature."
Public works director Lisa Fauteux said the responsibility to relocate the park lies collectively on public works, the mayor's office, and economic development, as well as the board of public works. She said no decisions have been made as to where the park will be relocated.
"I think a number of sites have been thrown out there but nothing has materialized as of yet," she said.
Fauteux referred the New Hampshire Union Leader to parks and recreation superintendent Nick Caggiano, but Caggiano wasn't even clear that the park is to be relocated.
Brian Fiske is the manager at Eastern Boarder, Nashua's oldest and biggest skate shop, which was instrumental in the construction of the Nashua skatepark. The Deane park "has had a massive impact on a lot of peoples lives," Fiske said. "The kids love skateboarding. It means everything to them. They identify with skateboarders, skateboarding, the whole culture."
Fiske said details about the park's future are unclear, and that people at the shop are upset that they haven't been contacted by the city.
Asked what the skateboard community's involvement will be in pushing for a new park, Fiske said, "We personally would do everything in our power to bring awareness to all of the people."
If the park is done right - in consultation with the skate community - Fiske said the rebuilding of the Deane park could be an opportunity for the city.
"We don't have to have a $3 million skate park in Nashua," he said, "but we need to figure out what we want to do and get it in the hands of the right people. This is the key-you put it in the hands of the people who know what they're doing."
"All we do here at parks and rec is maintain the skate park," he said. "We're not involved at that level of negotiating with where it's going or how that deal's made."
Bouley and his friends are open to the idea of a new skate park - they even welcome the idea so long as a new one goes up before the current one comes down.
"The skate park is the bright spot over there obviously, but there's a lot of land back there," he said. "It would be nice if they did something with it - bring it more into the light so that it's more accessible to the public."
Bouley said he and 10 of his friends would be eager participants in a community effort to build a new park.