Manchester Town Council has chosen a site for a skate park, after years spent deciding whether to build one at all.
Town officials had asked for residents' opinions and heard about a dozen people at the council meeting Tuesday night. They also received telephone calls, electronic messages and letters, some signed by dozens of people.
Almost everyone who commented wanted a skating area, and the majority favored Westside Memorial Park, north of Manchester Road (Route 27) rather than using part of the tennis courts at Christmas Tree Park on the town's east side. The council later voted to build a park at Westside.
Councilman Ryan M. Warner, the youngest member at 25, urged several youths at the back of the room to speak.
"It should be built. There's nowhere to skateboard around here," said Mike Schemer, 14, who removed his baseball cap as he began talking into a microphone. "You get yelled at. I think they should give you somewhere to skateboard."
"I've been skating since I was 12 and never had a problem with getting run over," said Keith Schenning, 16, who, like the others, attends North Carroll High School. "I think whether you build a park or not, people are still going to complain about us. But we just want a place to skate."
Councilman Joseph Jordan said he had a lengthy e-mail from the council's former youth member Paul Gutierrez, now in Florida, who wrote, "Do it right. The idea was to give them their own space, their own place."
"These kids have wanted a skate park for a while now," said Mark Mangieri of Michelle Road, who lets teen-agers skate in his driveway "because I figure they needed some place to go."
"If you continue to put this thing off, you eliminate half the people who could enjoy it," Mangieri said.
Teens who outgrow the park before it is built "will take away from this the idea that if you work through the system, someone will find a way to pigeonhole it and stick it away," Mangieri said.
"I'd be happy with either place, as long as we get the skate park," said Michael G. Zimmer, who has been working for a park for several years, recently with Robert T. Scott, an orthodontist and owner of the Manchester Manor community near Westside park.
The two men have helped to raise thousands of dollars through raffles, candy and pretzel sales, and donations.
The town has about $45,000 available, including state Program Open Space money.
But Westside could cost almost that much more, Scott said, for clearing, paving, fencing and parking, and it has drainage problems.
The momentum for the park has been building this year, as the mayor and council's monthly discussions shifted from possible problems to specific concerns about Westside or Christmas Tree Park.
Councilman Brooks Rugemer, the most ardent supporter of the park, voted against the Westside location, calling it "another excuse to scuttle it."
Aside from the time and additional cost to build a park, Rugemer expressed concern about high-speed traffic on Route 27.
But after Jordan made the motion to put a park at Westside, it was over in minutes.
Town Manager Philip L. Arbaugh said he would immediately get bids for the work to see if the town has enough money for the park.
"This is one project I'd like to see followed through on quickly - to prove a point, if nothing else," Jordan said, commenting to the crowd.
"I hope you're not looking at this evening as a defeat."