Athol board weighs fate of Fish Park’s Sled Shed


For the Athol Daily News

Published: 03-23-2023 4:22 PM

ATHOL – Several residents of the Fish Park neighborhood attended a meeting of the Selectboard to discuss the future of what has come to be known as the Sled Shed.

Bridget Armentrout, administrative assistant to Town Manager Shaun Suhoski, first received a call about the structure about two weeks ago. Armentrout also noted the shed was built by a resident of Royalston.

“It wasn’t a complaint,” she was quick to point out, “Someone just had a few questions.”

Any complaints came later, she said.

Providing context for the discussion, board Vice Chair Rebecca Bialecki explained, “This winter, a group of private citizens who live in and around the neighborhood of Fish Park decided it might be beneficial to have access to a ‘library’ of sleds at Fish Park, because kids sled there anyway.”

Bialecki added that this group had seen children sledding on pieces of cardboard at times and felt there may be residents willing to donate sleds and build a wooden structure to hold them.

“I think a lot of kids used it,” Bialecki said at the March 21 meeting. “I heard a lot of positive things. I’m thrilled that private citizens would go invest themselves in something. And I’m hopeful maybe we can come up with a way to help this, find a storage space in the off-season, and also maybe make it more aesthetically pleasing for the neighborhood than the structure that’s there right now.”

Terri Belanger said the intentions behind the Sled Shed — which is across the street from their house — were good, but described the structure is “an eyesore.”

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“The town did a wonderful beautification project on Fish Park; the really did a wonderful job and it looks beautiful,” Belanger said. “Like I said, the intentions were good. However, it really needs to be removed or replaced. And I’m sure it’s a liability for the town as well.”

Another resident of the neighborhood, Kim Lewis, said she had been involved in early discussions regarding a strategy for helping the children using the park.

“I had no idea that when I came home from work one day, there it would be,” she said. “I work at ACES (Athol Community Elementary School), and the kids are talking about the ‘sled park,’ and I’ve gone down there and watched some of the teachers who bring their kids. It is fun. I do understand what (Terri Belanger) says about it being large and, perhaps, not the prettiest structure.”

Lewis said she has spoken to the person who built the shed and they are willing to take it down.

“I’m for it,” Lewis said of the shed. “Yes, I acknowledge there have been a lot of improvements to the Fish Park area, so, yes, if we can come up with a Plan B for the structure, good. I’m in the neighborhood and I’m very much in favor of it.”

Frank Visco, who lives in Athol but not near the park, has heard that many kids have enjoyed the Sled Shed. He credited the builder for putting in the time and effort to build it.

“It kind of brings people together…To just kind of take that away and just throw a metal bike rack up there that’s just as much of an eyesore, instead of something someone handcrafted for the community, I don’t think that should happen,” said Visco. “I know I don’t live in the area but I think the time and effort put into it should be recognized.”

Board member Kala Fisher raised the concern that the shed had been built on town property and agreed that an improved design was preferred. Bialecki believes there is a way everyone can work together to get something that is more aesthetically pleasing, with someplace to store things out of season.

“Maybe we can work with the DPW and have some of the neighbors come together and find something smaller or more compact that we can design together,” Bialecki said.

Noting that the nor’easter that hit the region on March 21 and 22 is possibly the last major snowfall of the season, Bialecki committed town officials to working with the community to try to come up with a solution before next winter.

Greg Vine can be reached at