Vermont’s Best Skateparks
There are 34 skateparks in Vermont, and I’ve skated every single one of them,” says Holden Barth, 25. Barth is a Burlington-based social media manager for a number of companies including Vans Snowboarding and Howl Supply.
Last summer, he and freelance photographer Peter Cirilli (who has worked for the likes of Burton, Darn Tough, Thrasher Magazine, and Nordica to name a few) set out to skate every park they could find in Vermont.
Inspiration came from Anti Hero Skateboard’s 2004 video “Tent City,” in which the skateboard team travels across Australia, from Brisbane to Melbourne, camping along the way. Barth and Cirilli now have plans to turn their quest into a book.
“We get stuck in this cycle up here in Burlington of skating the waterfront (A_Dog), skating Winooski, and then skating, you know, Essex every once in a while,” says Barth. “But it’s kind of a routine. A_Dog is amazing…but there are also moments where I’m like, ‘I want to try something different.’”
To identify all of the parks scattered throughout the hills and valleys of Vermont, Barth enlisted the help of friends, social media, and Google Earth. The result was a Google Maps tab with each of the 34 park’s locations —and a burning desire to skate them all.
“It was an opportunity to take the common space of skating with your friends to a new location,”says Barth. “And then everyone gets to sit there and try to figure something out. Everyone has a different style. Someone’s better at transition and someone else’s has got a really good ledge game. So, you can sit back and watch how they approach skating the different parks.”
“And a really cool thing is just to see the other people who skate these parks every day.” Cirilli adds.
No matter how crusty, or lumpy, or deteriorated your home park is, it likely holds a special place in your heart. No two parks are the same, even the prefab parks that dot the state have their own little unique quirks and features. And in the past two years, new parks have popped up in Brattleboro and Manchester.
Skateboarding in Vermont wasn’t always as popular as it is now, but that is not to say that passionate skaters haven’t been making do with whatever they had.
Vermont has turned out its share of pros. Brothers Marc, Andre and Tino Razo grew up skating their driveway and the streets of Bennington before moving to New York and later Los Angeles. They went on to become artists at the core of the skateboard world with Andre designing the adidas x Max Fish sneaker that celebrated the iconic New York skateboard bar, Max Fish.
Tino moved on to Los Angeles where he produced Party in The Back, a book about skating Los Angeles’ abandoned swimming pools. Chris “Cookie” Colburn started skating at Talent in Burlington before becoming a Mountain Dew pro who travels the world for videos, Jordan Maxham, a Barre native, is another sponsored pro, and the Mull brothers of Manchester, have made a name for themselves in the skateboarding industry with their company, Worble.
“You know, there’s always been a solid street skating scene [in Burlington],” says Brendan Foster, co-owner of Maven Skate Shop in Burlington. “As far as skate parks, that was something definitely lacking.” There was a time in which there weren’t as many parks, and people had to make the best of what they could build or find in the streets.
Skateparks allow for people of all ages to come together to learn and enjoy skating in a safe space. “It’s really cool to have a community space. I can go to A_Dog skatepark anytime of the week and I know someone’s gonna be there who I know, or I’ll make that connection. And it’s always really exciting to see new people,” says Barth.
“I feel like the skatepark provides a safe environment for kids of all ages—adults too— to share a common bond. And for every time you slam, you learn to get back up and try it again. I think that’s a pretty powerful tool. So. if you give these kids a place and an outlet to skate, that’s really rad.”
While Cirilli and Barth are working on their own list of parks throughout the state, these five have stood out for them; chosen because of their quality, proximity to other parks and activities, and the fact that they are worth making the sometimes long drive to skate them.
Perseverance Skate Park, Brattleboro
As you drive up the road that winds its way up the Brattleboro Ski Hill, a small slope accessed in the winter by a T-Bar, you come upon Perseverance Skatepark.
Located in Brattleboro’s Living Memorial Park, Perseverance is Vermont’s newest skatepark. The park was built by Parker Construction, Inc. of Hardwick, and opened in October of 2020.
Its spot high on the hill provides expansive views of rolling green mountains to the north and east.
“That was a park where I was like, yes, this is worth the trip,” remarks Barth. “You’re pretty much driving to Massachusetts. If you’re in Burlington and are like, I’m going to go to Brattleboro like I’m committing a whole entire day to it. But it’s dope.”
Barth got the chance to hit it after its opening. “Brattleboro park is so sick. There’s a really good street section flow that kind of angles off into this bowl, and then a bowl corner, mini ramp, and then it just like, kind of flows back into the street like a weird, offset ‘L’,” he says.
“Everything feels smooth. And there’s different weird wall rides to try out and it’s sweet.”
Building the park was a seventeen year process. The community, who raised over $350,000 and Tony Hawk’s The Skatepark Project, donated $5,000. Without that community support, this park would not have been possible.
It is obvious how the park got its name. This was no simple task, but it showcases the power of perseverance and community dedication.
Before the skate park went in, locals Katie Burroughs and Abel Ford would skate the streets of Brattleboro or at the local Boys and Girls Club.
Now they skate four or five days a week at Perseverance. “We skate all over New England,” says Burroughs. “And this is our favorite spot.”
Manchester Skatepark, Manchester
If you head south down Route 30, just before arriving in downtown Manchester, you’ll see a turnoff for Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park. The park has a brand new track, soccer fields, basketball courts, a swimming pool, and the stoic grandstand of Applejack field
And if you drive through the park, you’ll come upon the gem that is Manchester’s skatepark, with Mt. Equinox towering in the background
After over five years of fundraising and planning, phase one of Manchester’s new park finally opened on August 31st, 2019.
On a typical day you might find a mix of younger skaters: a couple of kids on scooters, some of the area’s older locals, and a crew of groms who have made their way over from Burr and Burton Academy or the Manchester Elementary and Middle School, located just down the park’s gravel path.
On Barth and Cirilli’s trip, Manchester was one of their favorite parks. “It’s really fun watching people figure out the two volcanoes that go into a spine,” recalls Barth.
The park is small, not that that is a bad thing, but on a crowded day you’ll have to wait your turn to drop in. If you happen to catch a solo session, or pull up with friends to an empty park, take advantage of it.
Bill Strecker, the owner of Arson skate shop in Manchester believes that the new park is already having an impact on the community. “I think families are considering moving here [because of the park],” says Strecker. “There’s a park, there’s a shop, there’s [skate] camps, there’s that kind of activity going on.”
The park still has two more build phases before it will reach its planned size. In order to reach that goal, almost $600,000 in additional funding is needed.
Warren Skatepark, Warren
There are DIY parks scattered across the state, but what has been built at Warren is something special; it’s a true community effort.
Ever since the beginning, the Warren park has had a grassroots, do-it-yourself mentality. “That this is a community of skateboarders who care enough about their park to literally build it from the ground up is really rad,” says Barth.
Barth grew up skating at Warren near his family’s condo. And even after he moved to Burlington to attend Champlain College, Barth would rally his friends to make the hour drive to the Warren skatepark.
Back in 1997, the area behind the elementary school on School Road where the Warren Skatepark now sits was only a slab of bad asphalt, painted white, and used as a skating rink in the winters.
But Pierre Hall, one of the skatepark’s original pioneers (as well as a fundraiser, builder, and skater of the park), and his friends didn’t care, they still skated it. Around that time, local parents, along with Mad River Valley Rec District, petitioned the town of Warren to repave that area. Mad River Valley Rec kicked in a little money, some parents built some fun blocks, and the Warren Skatepark was born.
“Since we first started building in 2005, it became apparent there was a real desire to have a skatepark in the area,” remarks Hall. “More kids started skating and adults we’re getting back into it. We’ve got it more built out, and over the last couple of years we’ve seen increased travel. People are coming from all over New England to skate here,” he says;
“The valley is a pretty special place in general, just being a really small town surrounded by mountains,” says Travis Kerr, owner of Splinters Boardshop in Warren. “And obviously we have a very tight community in the winter.”
It seems natural that in an area where winters revolve around being on the mountain, people would look to skateboarding as an alternative in the warmer months.
A large section of the park has been under construction in order to replace the recycled asphalt that was poured some 23 years ago with smooth concrete. The park reopened in early June.
The best park in Vermont? Sure, you can debate this, but based strictly on size (21,000 square feet), design, and quality, A_Dog can’t be beat. “A_Dog is world renowned,” said Barth.
Since the park opened in 2015, it’s been skated by pros like Tony Hawk (whose foundation helped fund the park), Curren Caples, Sean Malto, and Vermont legends like Chris ‘Cookie’ Colburn and Jordan Maxham.
Aside from that, the park’s location on Burlington’s waterfront provides iconic views of Lake Champlain and sunset sessions that are hard to beat.
The park was designed by Grindline Skateparks, a Seattle company with contributions to hundreds of parks around the world, and built by Artisan Skateparks, of Kitty Hawk, NC, in 2015.
“The layout of it is so good,” said Justice Hedenburg, of Winooski, co-owner of the Elevate Movement Collective in Stowe, and a stuntman for films and TV shows. “I think it’s cool, when a park has a little bit of everything for everybody. You can get gnar in the deep end [of the bowl] if you want to or you can just slap around on some little coping and some of the, you know, little quick quarters they have there as well.”
This park, like many in the state, didn’t just come together overnight. “Immediately, when we opened Maven, we were like, ‘Okay, we need to get the waterfront skatepark updated’,” recalls Brendan Foster, owner of the Maven skate shop. “Because wooden parks with sheet metal definitely don’t work. Not up here in Vermont.” That was back in 2005. It wasn’t until 10 years later that A_Dog opened. Since then, the park’s reputation has only grown. “It’s kind of put Burlington on the map as far as, like, where you would travel to skateboard,” remarked Foster.
The park was named after local DJ and skater, Andy ‘A_Dog’ Williams, whose passion, dedication, and persistence were instrumental in getting the park built. Sadly, Andy passed away of leukemia before the park was finished.
“He was just always very positive and helpful with these things,” says Foster. “He DJ’d, he was passionate about skateboarding. He invigorated the skate scene. He was so important to this project, and that’s ultimately why it was named after him.”
Uprise and NVU, Lyndonville:
In Vermont, it is rare for a town to have two skateparks, especially for a town the size of Lyndonville.
“Lyndonville is sick because you can go skate either at the school…and they have lights, [or] skate at the Outing Club, which is a small space but well designed,” remarks Barth.
Uprise Skatepark at the Lyndon Outing Club was built in 2011 by Who Skates Skateparks of Maine, in part due to a $15,000 donation from The Skatepark Project.
This small, 4,500-square-foot, concrete park sits at the base of the small, volunteer-run, ski hill.
“[Uprise Skatepark] was cool. Kind of that tiny skatepark, but just on the base of a little hill,” recalls Cirilli. “It was more or less the scenery that makes these parks beautiful.” The concrete park has stunning views from Shonyo Hill, and the Outing Club also has some great trails for hiking and biking.
In 2011, a second, metal prefab park was also built at Northern Vermont University, formerly Lyndon State College, by American Ramp Company of Joplin, MO.
This 6,000-square-foot park is slightly larger than Uprise Skatepark and boasts lights for skating at night. “Everything at the bottom [of the ramps] is smooth. The only one thing is it’s like slightly on a slope” says Barth. “Everything slopes down to the left, which is good for drainage. At the same time, you can make the joke that you’re pushing uphill, but it’s really minor.”
Especially given the size of Uprise Skatepark, it’s amazing that Lyndonville has another park only seven minutes away.
Wilson Vickers is a recent graduate of Champlain College and a former intern at Vermont Sports.
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