Skaters rejoice! Talent Skatepark, formerly located on Williston Road in South Burlington, will begin anew after closing its doors last summer.
In August 2018, Talent Skatepark owners Hannah Deene Wood and her husband Dave Wood were sure they had heard the final click-clacking and rumbling of skateboard wheels in their indoor skatepark. That is, until a group of parents came to them with the idea of establishing a 501c(3) nonprofit. With that status secured, Talent is set to reopen in the Burton Snowboard factory along Queen City Park Road in South Burlington.
Talent originally opened in December 2001 on Williston Road at the current site of Earl’s Cyclery and Fitness. It played host to a slew of skating events from lessons to practice, competitions to camps. The space even had a skate shop. It was a passion project for Deene and her then-acquaintance/business partner Dave Wood, both avid skaters. Deene started the first skateboard contest in her days at Colchester High School and wanted to share the sport with the next generation.
“I’d see all these kids who were interested in skateboarding, and then the winter would come,” she said. So, she and Wood drafted their business plan for an indoor skatepark.
It soon became a “safe haven” for kids, she said. In recent years, it was a place for them to disconnect from screens and “just interact with each other.”
But once business costs had become too great and online retailers like Amazon made retail efforts untenable, Deene and her husband decided it was time to close the park.
“I fell into a deep depression,” Deene said. “My whole world ended.”
And Deene wasn’t alone. Many “Talent kids” and their families felt a similar way.
“It was so sad,” skater-mom and South Burlington resident Danielle DeMarse said. “The Talent community was a family and we couldn’t believe it was closing.”
Her son, Jack, began skating at the park when he was 7 years old and spent most of his summers and school breaks there.
“Talent offered Jack a refuge,” DeMarse said. “He felt inspired there, both by the skating and the art.”
Shelburne Talent mom Erica Frey-Delaportas and her family agree. The Frey-Delaportas kids had been long time frequenters of Talent when they heard of its unfortunate end.
“I’ll never forget my first day [at Talent],” Frey-Delaportas said. As she dropped her then young boys Tristen and Mikey off at the park, she overheard a dad say to his son, “see you tonight.” Frey-Delaportas couldn’t believe that a parent would leave their child at a skatepark for the entire day, but she soon understood. Within two weeks, she’d drop her kids off at Talent for three or four hours at a time.
“When you can find a place your kids have fun being at that’s safe … and your kids can stay there for hours, that’s unheard of,” she said. “It really was a place that fueled their passion and fostered their development.”
From mastering new tricks to cheering on their fellow skaters, Frey-Delaportas got to watch her kids grow and mature at Talent. When the park closed, her family was distraught.
“It was horrible,” she said. They were traveling abroad when the news reached them. “We kind of were blindsided. We all just cried.”
But Frey-Delaportas said that with all of the Talent families sharing those emotions, they were motivated to see the park reborn.
Recently, a group of parents with various professional backgrounds assembled to discuss creating a nonprofit so that Deene could accept donations and apply for grants to help maintain the skatepark.
“We were so thankful to find out that Hannah really wasn’t done with what she was doing, but just not able to continue to do it the way that the business model had initially been set up,” Talent Skatepark board member Melissa Hathaway said.
Armed with a parent with nonprofit experience and another with a legal background, the parents formed a board with Deene at the helm.
“The mission of the board is really to support Hannah in being the executive director and continuing the good work that she was doing with supporting kids to be responsible, respectful, safe skateboarders, and, really, community members,” Melissa Hathaway said.
Thus far, the board has helped Deene find a space for the new park and begin fundraising. The board started a GoFundMe page that has reached $15,470 of a $100,000 goal. They’re also hosting a “Talent for Talent” grazing dinner with Vermont chefs cooking up grub to benefit the park.
For parents and kids alike, the new beginning is a welcome and unexpected one.
“[It’s] really, really cool because I didn’t really think it was going to be open this fast,” 13-year-old skater Reid Hathaway said.
“We’re really happy, just so thankful that the community has supported this project and really, ultimately, that Hannah and Dave are onboard,” Melissa Hathaway said.
Hathaway added that as a long-time school counselor she sees great need for venues like the skatepark.
“I’ve really seen the intensity of the world impacting our kids,” she said. “One of the things that’s so critical for kids is that they find a community where they can get that sense of belonging and where they can have an outlet for physical activity and social supports.”
Deene said she hopes to hold a soft-opening of the new park on Dec. 6 – a Friday, and her birthday. But there is permitting and construction to be completed first.
As for the parents who helped her and her husband get the park back off the ground, Deene is grateful.
“I was bawling my eyes out,” she said of their efforts. “I didn’t realize parents were feeling what I was feeling … skateboarding had a really bad name before. I think Talent, in 17 years, turned that around.”