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Future of O'Gara Park debated in Merrimack

Union Leader Correspondent

November 16. 2017 8:30PM

MERRIMACK — With the O’Gara Drive tennis courts about to be demolished, officials are now contemplating the future of the local park.

Although the school district owns the plot of land occupied by the recreational park on O’Gara Drive, the town has leased the property for many years and maintains its facilities — including the tennis courts, basketball court, ice skating rink and skateboard park.

Town officials intend to soon demolish the tennis courts, which were previously declared obsolete.

“The tennis courts are atrocious — they have been for years and years,” Town Manager Eileen Cabanel said this week.

The town’s lease with the school district ends on July 30, 2018. At that time, the town could potentially remove the basketball court as well, and possibly relocate the ice-skating rink to Watson Park.

There are three locations at Watson Park where the portable ice rink could be housed, according to Cabanel, who said an ice rink at Watson Park could be quite charming.

“I think it is a really good idea and a really good mix for that park,” she said.

In addition, Cabanel said the Merrimack Youth Association has space on its property where a new basketball court could be constructed if the one on O’Gara Drive is removed; the organization has about $10,000 it might be willing to contribute to the project, which has an estimated price tag of $45,000.

She noted that there is about $42,000 in the town’s capital reserve fund for playground equipment that could also be considered.

The big question, admits Cabanel, is how to handle the final piece of the park — the existing skateboard facility.

“I really truly believe that the kids in the community do use it,” Bill Boyd, town councilor, said of the skateboard park. It is his hope that the school board would consider keeping the skateboard park in its current location once the lease expires and the property is officially back in the hands of the school district.

Mike Thompson, school board member, said he would support keeping the skateboard park until the board decides to do something with that parcel — if it does finalize a future plan for the site.

“The town has not been kicked off of that piece of property,” stressed Cinda Guagliumi, school board member, debunking any rumors that may have been circulating.

Cabanel explained that there are perpetuity clauses connected to two prior grants used to help build portions of the park, and that the town is hoping to clear itself from any future obligations associated with the site once the lease ends next year.

School officials have informally discussed the possibility of using the parcel to construct a new special education and administrative offices building for the school district, however nothing formal has been decided.

“We have not voted as a board to use this property as a SPED office,” emphasized Shannon Barnes, school board chairman, adding any item related to a new building would be placed on the ballot for voters to decide.

According to Cabanel, it could cost about $150,000 to construct a new skateboard park, adding it is impossible to relocate the existing structure. Furthermore, she said town officials are not aware of a place where a new skatepark could be constructed in town.

Outdoors Merrimack Local and County Government

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