When residents in Gloucester, Rockport and elsewhere consider how to spend money from their Community Preservation Act kitties, many may understandably focus on the term “preservation,” especially when it comes to sprucing up historic properties.
Indeed, both communities have leveraged funding for long-term projects by borrowing against future CPA revenues, which are drawn from both voter-approved surcharges on local property tax bills, and from state-allocated money from deeds fees. Gloucester has funneled CPA funds into rehabbing its historic City Hall, while Rockport did the same to steer more than $2 million into revitalizing its Community House, complete with the town’s own senior center.
CPA money, however, can be put to other uses, including acquiring land for local parks and recreation facilities. And a 2011 state law change, pushed by local state Sen. Bruce Tarr, opened the door to using CPA money to upgrade current city- or town-owned recreation areas — a provision that Gloucester has tapped to bolster funding for the Newell Stadium “renewal” project.
It is in that vein that a group of Rockport residents is seeking $55,200 in CPA dollars for a facility that is far from historic _ one used almost exclusively not by the town’s seniors and elder statesmen, but by teens, even pre-teens and residents in their early 20s.
It’s the Matt Waddell Memorial Skate Park, and it’s a project that deserves town voters’ full support.
The money would go toward expanding the park, which was built in 1989 behind Evans Field near the YMCA Youth Center. And it’s an expansion and improvement project that has actually won approval in the past. Alas, state law at that time allowed the use of CPA money only for properties that were bought with CPA money, so the skate park didn’t qualify. Now, like Newell Stadium, and Gloucester’s skate park at O’Maley School, it does, as indeed it should.
At its core, this proposal calls for simply expanding a town park. But it really stretches beyond that. It gives Rockport Town Meeting voters the chance to provide a tangible boost for a park and facilities that directly serve the town’s youth.
It’s a chance to show those who use the park — and those who may not, but would use an expanded one — that the town recognizes their needs as well. And it’s a question to which Town Meeting voters should provide a basic and unanimous answer: Yes.