MEREDITH — The effort to rejuvenate the Hart Family Skatepark has been a couple of years in the making, first spurred on by Glenn Hart’s son, Brendan. The campaign has been picking up steam lately, and supporters hope to gain yet more momentum at the Meredith Town Meeting on Wednesday, when voters will be asked to approve $25,000 toward the total cost of $232,000.
Whether or not voters approve the measure, the drive to rebuild the skatepark is picking up speed.
Brendan Hart began raising the alarm about the skatepark, then known as the Glenn Hart Memorial Skatepark, in 2017, when he said flaking paint, cracked asphalt and aging plywood made the park unappealing and unsafe.
The cause was personal for Brendan, who is currently at university in France. He said that he spent hour after hour at the park when he was growing up. The park was named after his father, Glenn, who died in 1998 when Brendan, the youngest of three boys, was four. A memorial fund was established in his dad's honor, which resulted in the skatepark being built in 2003 within the town’s Prescott Park.
But the decade-and-a-half hasn’t been kind to the skatepark materials, and last summer the park was closed due to deterioration.
Meanwhile, an effort had already begun to make the park better than ever. Brendan was joined in the effort by his mother, Linda Hart-Buuck, and they decided to revive the latent Friends of Meredith Parks and Rec, which has just received its official reinstatement as a nonprofit organization, to organize the effort.
Brendan started the fundraising effort through a gofundme.com page, and held a couple of events at the park to raise funds and awareness. Linda took over as president of the organization this fall when Brendan went to study overseas. Then, this winter, tragedy struck the Hart family again. Linda died unexpectedly on Jan. 9. Peter Thorndike assumed the role of president of the Friends of Meredith Parks and Recreation, and the group decided to change the name of the park to the Hart Family Skatepark.
Despite the blow of Linda’s passing, the organization has continued to progress toward its goal. So far, $45,000 has been raised through individual gifts and small grants, including an Instagram contest Brendan won by playing a harmonica while riding a pump track in France. Recently, the organization heard that it has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation, and it expects to soon be able to announce significant grants from local service organizations.
If voters agree to join the effort, the Friends of Meredith Parks and Rec could soon be halfway to their fund raising goal, and this year they will broaden the campaign to bring in local residents and businesses.
“It’s going to be a community effort where everybody is involved and everyone pitches in a little bit, which is really cool,” Thorndike said.
Those who wish to donate can mail a check to the Friends of Meredith Parks and Recreation at 1 Circle Drive, Meredith, NH, 03253, and note “Skatepark” in the memo field.
Unlike the current skatepark, plans for the new one call for an all-concrete construction, which will require little maintenance and will far outlast a park made with wooden features.
Thorndike said that the skatepark is the immediate goal of the organization, but that it will continue after that goal is achieved.
“A common misconception in town is (that) we’re the skatepark committee, and we’re not,” Thorndike said. The organization is already talking about what its next project might be. “Anything in town, beaches, parks, you name it,” he said.
Joan Aiken, secretary of the Friends of Meredith Parks and Rec, said the skate park offers a different kind of recreation in a town that most people associate with Lake Winnipesaukee-related activities. With the existing Sculpture Walk and proposed Laverack Trail at Hawkins Brook, Meredith will have a diversity of reasons for families to come visit, she said.
“I’m really excited that we have some good news to share and this is moving forward,” Aiken said.