Rolling Forward

Manchester’s newly-completed skatepark welcomes skateboarders of all ages and abilities


From the moment that the Manchester Skatepark opened in 2019 at Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park, it has brought Manchester’s residents and families together in beautiful ways. On any given spring or summer day, you will likely see children and parents of all ages enjoying its wide-ranging obstacles and features. Skilled skateboarders coast through the bowls and transitions and grind on rails with effortless finesse—and they courteously leave time for younger, less experienced riders to get a turn. Today, the park’s final two phases have been completed, ushering in a new era of athletic expression and community connection. 

The spirit of cooperative respect that is evident at the park today was embodied through all phases of the park’s funding and construction. It all started with the foundation of the Manchester Skatepark Committee in 2013. Comprised of passionate members, including Dan Davala, Patti Eisenhaur, and Bill Strecker, among many others, the Skatepark Committee laid the groundwork for the construction, design, and fundraising of the park. They included all age demographics in town meeting discussions, including young, local skateboarders who played a direct role in influencing the park’s design and location. Working with local officials, public relations workers, and Manchester’s former Town Manager, John O’Keefe, the Skatepark Committee raised $50,000 of public funds from the town of Manchester. The funds were matched and then surpassed by local, anonymous donors to complete Phases 1 and 1.5 of the park’s construction. Individual, small-scale donations from local residents also played a prominent part, as did a generous $10,000 joint donation by the Tony Hawk Foundation and Bode Miller’s Turtle Ridge Foundation. The park was designed and built by the internationally-renowned firm, Grindline Skateparks. They incorporated design elements that paid tribute to the beautiful Southern Vermont scenery into the first phases of the park, such as a painted outline of the Battenkill River and two conical peak obstacles that mirror the nearby mountains. 

Phase 1 and 1.5 were completed before the park’s grand opening in August 2019. The park was greeted with incredible support from the local community. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the Manchester Skatepark Committee remained undeterred in their fundraising efforts for the two final phases. Over the course of the following several years, Bill Strecker and several other committee members attended additional town meetings. They seized the opportunity to advocate for funding the park’s completion. Strecker elaborates: “When they heard about the skateboarding clinic programs that were going on, the popular use of the park, and what was planned for its future, they vocalized their support and let us know that they were on board.” In the months following the town meetings, officials and residents started to rally behind the completion of the project. “Our involvement as a committee was persistent – we went the duration,” says Strecker. “It wasn’t a sprint; it was a marathon.” The tenacity of the committee resonated deeply with town officials and residents, leading to a groundswell of financial backing. 

Scott Murphy, Manchester’s current Town Manager, shares that when the contract was signed for the construction of Phases 2 and 3 in 2022, Manchester allocated $75,000 of ARPA funds, with significant additional funding sourced from anonymous donors. “People in our community have been incredibly supportive,” says Murphy. “They understand that the park is a draw for both residents and visitors, and it provides a place where our younger community members can enjoy themselves in a positive way. It contributes to the town’s overall quality of life, and it’s a major attraction that we’re grateful to have.” Strecker says that fundraising efforts for Phases 2 and 3 transcended traditional channels, encompassing online platforms such as GoFundMe. Strecker gratefully acknowledges the diverse spectrum of donations that the project received: “It ranged from $5 donations to five and six-figure donations. There was a lot of support, and we are beyond thankful and appreciative of that.” 

Strecker also notes that the park’s phased construction allowed it to evolve naturally with the incorporation of complementary features. Phases 1 and 1.5 introduced skateboarders to an array of exciting challenges. Its highlights include rails, ledges, banks, and a semicircle bowl with pool coping. Phase 2 expanded the park’s offerings with additional street skateboarding-inspired obstacles. The final phase served as the proverbial “icing on the cake.” Situated in the foreground of Dana L. Thompson Park’s public baseball fields, Phase 3 is arguably the park’s crown jewel. It boasts thrilling transition ramps and a mesmerizing “snake run,” which seamlessly connects various park elements together. 

According to Strecker, Manchester’s skateboarding community has continued to grow stronger in the months following the grand unveiling of the park’s final phases in Spring 2023. Strecker grew up skateboarding in Vermont long before the establishment of the Manchester Skatepark, and he has been an unwavering advocate for its power to positively engage young community members in constructive athletic pursuits. He began running skateboard clinics for local kids at the Manchester skatepark several years ago, drawing on his passion for the sport and its power to bring people together. He recently bolstered his efforts by founding the New England Skateboarding Association (NESA), and he has continued to use the Manchester skatepark as a hub for athletic collaboration. 

Strecker hosts NESA skateboarding clinics for skateboarders ages 7+, with signup and registration available through the Manchester Parks and Recreation webpage. Participants are encouraged to bring their own board, and to wear helmets and wrist, elbow, and knee pads for safety. Through his work at NESA, Strecker has also built strong relationships with the greater Vermont and New England skateboarding community in Rutland, Brattleboro, and across state lines in Lewiston, Maine. These blossoming partnerships have manifested in free afterschool skateboarding lessons at the Brattleboro Boys & Girls club, with plans for more NESA events and collaborations taking shape at the Manchester Skatepark and beyond.