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Windham officials open to skate park site proposals

WINDHAM — There’s no telling what the future holds for the town’s former skate park, but officials promise the public will have plenty of say in the matter.

During Monday night’s meeting of the board of selectmen, members agreed that a public hearing before selectmen and members of the town’s recreation committee would be an important step in determining what to do with the vacated spot near the entrance of Griffin Park.

The skate park was closed in September 2012 after police received constant complaints about vandalism, foul language and other inappropriate behavior among park regulars.

Last spring, town officials opted to close the park for good, and the site’s ramps and other equipment were sold off to the highest bidders.

All the equipment, including the fencing that surrounded the skate park, was removed from the site in November, according to Recreation Director Cheryl Haas.

Since then, Haas has heard from plenty of residents about what to do with the site.“People have called me with many different ideas of what they’d like to see in that spot,” Haas said on Wednesday.

Those ideas have ranged from a dog park to a playground to a space for outdoor games like horseshoes or shuffleboard.

Others have suggested leaving the site paved for street hockey games, though some would prefer to let the grass grow in, allowing for additional field space.

“The grass option seems popular with some of the sports leagues in town,” Haas said. “But it really all depends on what the public wants.”

Town Administrator David Sullivan told selectmen this week that a public forum would be the best way to gather ideas on the record.

Selectman Roger Hohenberger agreed.

“Based on the past process of Griffin Park and how it was developed, this really needs to go before the people,” Hohenberger said. “I’d definitely want a public hearing to precede any official discussion.”

Hohenberger suggested having the hearing during a selectmen’s meeting rather than a recreation committee meeting, though he stressed that both boards should be present for the hearing.

He noted that selectmen meetings typically draw a larger crowd than recreation committee meetings.

“We want to make sure this gets the attention it deserves,” Hohenberger said.

Vice Chairman Al Letizio agreed.

“It certainly warrants discussion,” he said. “I think the public’s input is very important.”

Community Development Director Laura Scott said the town would soon be working on its new master plan, and community forums would be an important part of the process.

Scott said members of the recreation committee would be represented on the new master plan steering committee, but those forums aren’t expected to be held until early summer.

Sullivan said he’s hoping to have a plan in place for the site in time for the spring season.

The board agreed to hold a public hearing during one of its April meetings. Once a final date is determined, it will be posted in advance on the town’s website,

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