Fundraising efforts are underway for phase 2, duathalton race and silent auction held Saturday
By Brooke Geery
Saturday, July 31 at 9 a.m—BETHEL —Nestled in the White River Valley watershed, Bethel, Vermont, is predominantly made up of farms, marshes and craggy hills, as well as a historic village with old brick buildings left over from the 1800s industrial revolution. Although it is only minutes off I-89, it’s not a place many stop.
So, rather than depend on tourism, the population of Bethel — 2,200 people — has taken a localized DIY approach to providing recreational opportunities for its residents. The Bethel Recreation Facility (115 Pleasant St.) has a public pool, a fruitful community garden, jungle gyms, sports fields and a large, covered pavilion. In Oct. 2020, it got an exciting new feature: a free concrete skatepark.
Dietre Feeney sits on the recreation committee and serves as the pool director and summer and winter rec program director. Accordingly, she spends a lot of time at the park. She was closing up the pool when I stopped by last week to skateboard, and came out to ask us where we were from.
Upon hearing “Rutland” and “Dorset,” Feeney smiled.
“We fought really hard to get this skatepark built,” she said. “We had a lot of naysayers say it was too expensive and wouldn’t get used. Now they all just say ‘we can’t believe the use it gets.’”
Feeney explained that since opening the skatepark, she’s talked to people who have come from all over to use it, even traveling down from Burlington. And the park is only half finished.
She also proudly explained just how local the effort has been. The park was designed by Shane Kinsley, a local BMX rider, and built by Michael Parker of Parker Construction. Kyle Cartwright, a formerly-sponsored snowboarder who lives in Bethel, organized and coaches Camp Kickflip on Tuesdays (through Aug. 3 from 4-5:30 p.m.). Participation in the camp speaks for itself, with about 15 kids showing up for the first week on July 13, and different groups coming out so far each week.
With all the activity and excitement, the skatepark has remained a priority for the small committee, which is currently fundraising to add phase two. Feeney said they have raised over $35,000 already, with efforts such as a can-and-bottle drive though Bob’s M&M Beverage in Randolph, and sales of T-shirts designed by local Bethel student Matt Bangerter. They’ve also gotten commitments from local excavators to help with the literal dirty work at no cost when they’re ready to break ground. If all goes well, the second phase will be completed in summer 2022.
“They said to us over and over, ‘if you build it they will come.’ and that has proven to be totally true!” Feeney said. “If you have a board, bike or scooter in your car, you’re going to stop and check it out.”
How to get involved
On Saturday, July 31, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m., the rec committee will host the biggest fundraising event of the summer, a silent auction and duathlon. For the athletic, the duathlon will include a 5K around the town of Bethel followed by a 500m (10 lap) swim in the recreation facility pool; ithas both kids ($10) and adult ($25) divisions. On-site registration will be available and all information can be found at bit.ly/2UGVEnR.
For those who prefer to move less, the bidding in a silent auction will also begin at 9 a.m. Up for grabs are items donated by local businesses, including a fully refurbished 1983 Schwinn BMX bike from The Gear House in Randolph, a skateboard from Splinters Boardshop in Warren, various skate safety equipment, and $50 gift certificates totaling $300, from Dick’s Sporting Goods in Rutland.
For more information about all upcoming events and camps in Bethel, visit facebook.com/BethelRecFacility.