MEREDITH — Wake-up calls at 2 a.m. aren't usually associated with good news, but Brendan Hart didn't mind the one he received Thursday morning.
That's because the caller had pleasantly surprising news about Hart's pet project – the skate park in Meredith that bears his family's name.
Voters at the Meredith Town Meeting on Wednesday pulled off the skateboarding equivalent of landing a "720" (an aerial trick where the board and rider spin two full rotations.) Not only did residents support a warrant article to put money toward upgrading the Hart Family Memorial Skate Park, they doubled the amount petitioners had asked for.
Hart got the 2 a.m. call informing him of the $50,000 appropriation on Thursday in Grenoble, France, where he is taking graduate classes in international tourism and sports management.
“I couldn’t go back to sleep after I heard the news,” Hart said in a telephone conversation. “We’ve had so much good news this week that I’ve hardly slept in days.”
Friends of Meredith Parks and Recreation, which is acting as fiscal agent for the project, got word last Friday that its nonprofit status had been restored after having lapsed. That designation is important to qualify for many of the grants they hope to win in support of the project.
The Tony Hawk Foundation, which promotes skateboarding for youths, informed the group that it would receive a $25,000 grant — the largest amount the organization awards.
Taken together, those pieces of good news have brought renewed excitement for the project.
“This donation from the town solidifies their belief in project,” Hart said. “To me and my family, it’s just so special.”
The existing skate park was dedicated in 2003 to Brendan Hart’s father, Glenn, who died in 1998, but it has deteriorated, leading to its closure last summer.
Brendan Hart launched a fundraising drive last year to replace the skate park, originally looking at building only a small piece of the skate park as a concrete bowl.
“I thought we could do what was within my ability to do,” Hart said. “I thought it was a realistic goal, but the group at Tony Hawk said we should go for something that everyone will be excited about. I thought it would be optimistic, but they’re right, and that’s why they’re such a valuable resource.”
The larger project is estimated to cost $232,000, and in introducing the article at Town Meeting, Selectman Michael Pelczar said, “If it stays dormant, we may never get it back.”
The petitioned article sought $25,000, and residents who spoke were overwhelmingly supportive.
Peter Thorndike, president of the Friends group, said the appropriation would be a “show of good faith by the town,” but residents went further, saying the Hart family has done more for the town than many people realize. They also said the skate park is important in supporting the youths of Meredith and providing for the good of the town.
“These are the kinds of things the town should be supporting,” said Jack Carty.
Karen Sticht commented, “I’d really like to see it funded while I’m alive.”
Even the two selectmen who voted against supporting the article said they would back the appropriation — just not at this time.
“They’ve raised very little,” said Ray Moritz. “Our opposition was that it’s premature. We think they’re more than a year away from doing this, but we’d be likely to support it even more next year.”
Jeanie Forrester, the other selectman who did not support the article, called it “a great idea” but she said most groups seeking town support — such as those promoting the Laverack Nature Trail — had raised 75 percent of the needed money before approaching the town.
While there were questions about liability for the town, no one in the audience expressed opposition and when the motion was made to double the amount to $50,000, the crowd cheered. When it came to a vote, it was overwhelmingly in the affirmative.
Brendan Hart said he was thrilled to get the news of the vote.
“I’m just so heartened to have heard that so many people stood up and said nice things about my family and my parents,” he said.
His mother, Linda Hart-Buuck, had stepped up to help by reinvigorating the Friends of Meredith Parks and Recreation last summer and he recalled her saying, “We’ll save this ship.”
She died unexpectedly in January, and Hart said he was grateful that they had spoken often during the fall.
“It was nice that we could chat about new developments, and it was great to talk to her,” he said.
“When you lose your parents, you don’t want to stop hearing nice things about them,” he added, referring to the testimony at Town Meeting.
“This is so sentimental and wonderful. As much as I would have loved to have all the selectmen’s support, I understand where they’re coming from. We could have continued it if it took 10 years — we’re determined — and [the vote] will definitely speed things up.”
The temporary loss of its nonprofit status meant that the Friends lost some grants, but Hart said there are others they haven’t missed, and their grant-writer, Bill Haust, will be pursuing them.
“I’m confident that, by the end of the summer, we’ll have the funds raised, and after that go forward with the construction,” Hart said. “The big piece of the puzzle we’re waiting for is finding a concrete producer who would give us a reduced price on the concrete. That would drastically lower the cost, and might even allow us to build something bigger than we planned.”
He concluded, “I want to say thank-you to everyone in Meredith who came to the meeting, donated, and especially to Pete Thorndike, who has taken on Friends of Meredith Parks and Rec, and everyone at Parks and Rec. We’re excited to finish the project.”
Those who wish to donate to the skate park may make checks payable to Friends of Meredith Parks and Recreation, 1 Circle Drive, Meredith NH 03253.