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Chatham says a half pipe is better than none

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CHATHAM–Town officials hope once again to get the community “stoked” about their plans for a new skateboard park by hosting a second skateboard art fundraiser at the Benenson Visitor’s Center at ArtOmi International in Ghent.

The first Stoked fundraiser last year raised $4,700 toward the cost of a skate park that will be built at Crellin Park at the edge of the village. This year’s event, “Stoked 2,” is scheduled for Saturday, March 27, from 4 to 7 p.m. and has been ramped up, with even more artists and a few community groups decorating skate decks available for auction to the highest bidders.

“We thought we’d do the Stoked fundraiser for one more year,” said Shari Franks, the town recreation director. “It’s a great fundraiser that gets all types of people from the area out and having fun. And a lot of the talented artists who live around here become involved and are happy to help out,” she said.

Last year’s event featured 46 wooden skate decks embellished in a variety of ways–with everything from traditional paintings and drawings to three-dimensional sculptural elements, collages and even lights. The skate decks were displayed on the walls of the art gallery at the new ArtOmi visitor center. Visitors to the event had several hours to peruse the boards and bid in a silent auction. Refreshments, music and a raffle of baskets donated by local merchants were also part of the event.

This year’s event will follow a similar format but with more than 70 artists designing boards, including several community groups, like Chatham Middle School seventh and eighth grade art classes, COARC and Northern Columbia Rotary Club. This year’s artwork promises to be as eclectic as last year’s, said Ms. Franks, with tattoo artists, visual artists, graphics artists, traditional painters, sculptors, contractors, and community members among the participants.

The Town of Chatham has been working on skate park plans for three years, involving skateboarders of all ages in the planning and fundraising process. The hope is to provide a state-of-the-art facility for boarders, who often skateboard down the streets of the village. But skateboard parks are expensive, and the current state of the economy hasn’t made raising money any easier.

Thanks to fundraising, donations and grants, the town so far has raised about half of the $140,000 needed to build an approximately 6,000-square-foot skate park, said Ms. Franks. A few basic ramps and rails were purchased last year and set up at Crellin Park, but they are by no means all of what is planned.

“What is there now is just a start,” Ms. Franks said. “The goal is to double what we have raised so far in order to build the skate park.”

Another goal the town recently added to the mix is raising money to construct a new community building to replace the old pavilion at Crellin Park. The pavilion is more than 20 years old and badly in need of repairs to its leaky roof, cracked pavement and ancient restrooms, among other items.

“We’re trying to do both projects so we can provide more recreational opportunities for all our residents,” said Ms. Franks. “While the skate park appeals to a particular constituency, a new community building would benefit everyone.”

The proposal, though not set in stone, is to construct a building with 1,100 square feet of enclosed space and 1,200 feet of outdoor (pavilion) space under one roof. The building would house a concession stand, ADA compliant restrooms, meeting room and storage and be fully accessible.

“We’re hoping to have it green energy designed and sustainable,” by using recycled materials, energy saving windows and solar power, she said.

The estimated cost of the community building project is about $260,000, but the town does not want to use taxpayer dollars to fund it, said Ms. Franks, adding, “We’re strictly fundraising for these initiatives right now and writing grant proposals.”

The skate park committee is always looking for participants, especially students, and the Crellin Park Foundation is also looking for community members to serve on its board of directors. Anyone interested in serving on these boards, donating prizes for the “Stoked 2” raffle or becoming an event sponsor should contact Franks at her office (518) 392-0337.

The Stoked 2 fundraiser has a Facebook page on the web, where photos of some of the boards for this year’s auction can be viewed. A sampling of the boards from last year’s fundraiser will be on display at Ralph’s Pretty Good Café on Main Street in the Village of Chatham from March 1 to April 5.

Artists and community members working on this year’s boards include: Wayne Coe, Dan Devine,  Sam Devine, Patrick Devine, Roger Mason, Lisa Solomon, Kris Qua, MaryAnne Davis, Marrie Claude Girioux, Bill Thompson, Trevor Paul, Loren Weinheimer, Tom Curran, Frank Curran, Carol Curran, Margot Curran, Millie Rossman Kidd, Scott Fischer, Theresa N. Fischer, Wendy Carroll, Chase Rudisill Winkler, Rod Bull, Lee Coulter, Marcie Coulter, Tammy Walter, Antigone Adams, Milandou Badila, Marcia Curran, Lydia Curran, Colleen Carpenter, Samuel Reilly, Brian Polhemus, Chris Shober, Rick Sprague, Tarah Horan, Maggie Calhoun, Dominique DeVito, Dylan DeVito, Dawson DeVito, Dayan Moore, Christian Minnick, Dan Beltcher, Derek Hassenflaf, Dustin Horan, Bob Walker, John Reilly, David McLean, Gavi Cohen, Karen Arp-Sandel, Kyle Mesick, Gavin Shelow and Phil Curran.

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