Skateboarders and their backers have high hopes for a meeting this Tuesday when board members at the Martha's Vineyard Ice Arena are expected to decide whether to lease arena land for use as a skateboard park.
A subcommittee formed by the arena leadership plans to recommend giving skateboarders the green light to build a park, but no one is predicting how the full 15-member board will act.
"On Dec. 19, the skate park proponents made a presentation to the arena board, and people were favorably disposed toward it," said Phil Demers, the clerk of the board and a member of the subcommittee. "There are other proposals before the board, but so far, this one looks pretty good. The subcommittee is ready to support it."
The proposal comes at a time when the arena is facing its own fiscal crisis, and Mr. Demers acknowledged that the prospect of generating revenue will likely influence how the arena leaders act. Terms and dollar amounts of a lease deal have not been decided.
The arena sits on 10 acres of land, and if the proposed skate park is approved, it would occupy just over 7,000 square feet of land, or about one-seventh of an acre, east of the ice rink and close to the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.
Barry Rosenthal, president of the Island Council for Youth, which has lobbied on behalf of skateboarders, said his group hopes to build a park that measures 60 by 120 feet with a fence that is at least eight feet tall. It would be gated and locked, he said.
Skateboarder Nick Briggs, 21, of Tisbury, said the arena location is ideal. "There are no neighbors, it's central on the Island and it's near public transportation," he said.
The cost to build such a facility and to purchase ramps would be about $40,000. Mr. Rosenthal said he has already raised about half that amount in private donations. Taxpayers could end up paying the remainder of the cost. Proponents have asked all six Island towns to put a proposal on the annual town meeting warrants, requesting voters in each town to commit as much as $5,000 to the skateboard park.
If the skateboard park wins approval next week from the ice arena board, it will conclude over a year of efforts to find a home for Island skateboarders who complain about the dangers and hassles of having no place set aside exclusively for their sport.
Last November, skateboarders and their supporters, numbering almost 100, pressed members of the regional high school land use committee to free up some of the high school land for a skate park. School committee members balked at any commitment, saying they needed to make long term plans with their land for a possible middle school and aqautic center.
Similarly, when skateboarders approached county commissioners about getting land near the airport, they were also turned down.
But if anything has guided this group, it is persistence coupled with a grassroots energy. Skateboarders as young as nine years old and clutching their skateboards have stood up in public meetings to argue the need for a park. And adults have done their homework, ready to answer questions about liability insurance and models for other such parks around the region.
Looking ahead, organizers are adopting cautious optimism as their stance. But excitement is hard to contain. "If we get the go-ahead," said Mr. Rosenthal, "the kids are all ready to do fundraising."