Every day, Middlebury students on skateboards, scooters and other forms of wheels spend hours flying back and forth on the asphalt outside of Proctor Dining Hall, rain or shine. While this space on Hepburn Road provides a location for these activities for college students, the town of Middlebury does not yet have a recreational skatepark available to locals.
Ethan Murphy, president of the Middlebury Skatepark Project, and other members of the project are intent on changing that, however. Through fundraising efforts and community involvement, the project is steadily moving towards its goal of building a town skatepark. Optimistic predictions indicate that the construction may be completed in as little as two years, with many of the funds raised donated by individuals and local businesses, according to Murphy.
The Skatepark Project held a fundraising event last Wednesday, Oct. 4, in conjunction with the Middlebury Marquis Theatre to help raise these funds.
The Marquis provided its theater space for a screening of the film “Skate Dreams,” a 2022 documentary capturing the evolution of female skateboarding and prominent female skateboarders. The film highlights a seldom-seen characteristic of sports like skateboarding in representing the sport’s opportunities for community and connection. While skateboarding is now an Olympic sport, it still faces a stigma around its validity as a sport. Directed by Jessica Edwards, Skate Dreams highlights the immense talent and tenacity that it takes to master skateboarding, while also showcasing the sense of belonging that can stem from the sport, especially for people who are not involved in organized sports.
Ben Wells, owner of the Marquis Theater, told The Campus that he was motivated to host the film screening because he believes in giving back to the local community.
The Marquis is not alone in its support of the Skatepark Project. A number of local businesses and organizations, such as The Teen Center and Middlebury Parks and Recreation have shown their enthusiasm for the construction of a local skatepark.
On the Skatepark project’s website, Lindsey Fuentes-George, executive director of The Teen Center expressed her enthusiasm for the project — “What we also find compelling about the Middlebury Skatepark is its ability to be equitable regardless of socioeconomic backgrounds. The culture of a skatepark is naturally accepting of alternative life choices and supports the many who feel abandoned by the Middlebury community, which aligns with our mission.”
Murphy further explained the sense of belonging that a skatepark can bring to Middlebury and the surrounding area. “It’s estimated that between 14–20 percent of youth don’t participate in organized sports, and so it’s really about meeting those people where they are and providing an opportunity to be physically active and have fun,” he said.
Murphy became the president of the Skatepark Project a year and a half ago. Murphy said he had heard whispers about a movement to build a skatepark in Middlebury since he began work as a media production specialist for the college Film Department in 2014, but had yet to see any serious momentum on the project. As a skateboarder himself and the father of two children, Murphy saw a gap in the community in the area of skateboarding.
“The superintendent of Parks and Recreation told me that there was a lot of interest in building a skatepark, but that there was nobody to collect that interest. I started then and there,” he said.
The project has made some progress since The Campus last covered it in the fall of 2022. A location has been selected next to The Teen Center and the Middlebury Municipal Pool off of Buttolph Drive and all of the project’s approvals are in place, along with some initial permitting.
Recently, a wooden mini-ramp was installed in the location of the future skatepark to help fill the role of a skatepark until the concrete space is completed. While this ramp is useful, especially in the short-term, the Skatepark project website noted that wooden ramps require a lot of upkeep and do not last as long as concrete. Concrete also provides the best grip in all types of weather, which is an important asset for an outdoor space in Vermont.
For now, the focus of the project remains on fundraising. While efforts to raise money by selling t-shirts and stickers as well as hosting fundraising events have been successful, it has still been a struggle to secure adequate funds, Murphy said. Partnering with the college on the project, Murphy added, could help expedite the process.
“We hope that [our fundraising] shows financial institutions that we are sticking around and doing everything we can to fundraise,” Murphy said.
Middlebury students can become involved with the Skatepark Project in a number of ways. Once a month, there is an open meeting in the Ilsley Library Community Room for people who want to learn more about the project or get involved, including Middlebury students.
“You have to be an advocate, you have to be willing to work for it, and we as an organization are willing to do that,” Murphy added.