Skate park youth initiative reaches milestone

Southern Ute tribal member, Elliott Hendren, sits on the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council. Elliott and his brother Nate are two of the most outspoken students, advocating for the newly dedicated skate park facility.
Members of the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council, Lexy Young, Jazmin and Jace Carmenoros are congratulated by Southern Ute Executive Officer, McKean Walton, following the skate park land dedication ceremony.
Young tribal members and Ignacio youth feel the need for a community skate park, to practice, socialize and compete locally.
The Southern Ute Tribal Council, the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council, stand alongside community members and Department Directors for the youth initiative skate park land dedication, Wednesday, Aug. 15.
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum

Land dedication held on former casino site

Members of the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council (SCSYAC), both past and present, gathered alongside tribal dignitaries and community advocates for a land dedication ceremony, almost six years in the making. Many of the youth in attendance, spoke optimistically about the project that their peers envisaged — skateboards in hand.

“Today it has become a reality,” Executive Officer McKean Walton stated during the land dedication on Wednesday, Aug. 15. “We have support from the current Tribal Council, they are in full support of finding alternatives to the tough situations the kids in our community might be facing — the park is an outlet, it gives them an alternative choice,” Walton said.

“If kids are getting bullied at school, or thinking about suicide, they can come down here,” Youth Council member Elliott Hendren said. “It would help us.” Hendren sees the skate park as a safe place, where like-minded friends can talk, and share problems. Where the youth can focus their minds and energies on skateboarding, and socialize on their own terms.

Tribal Council passed Resolution 2018-133 dedicating the original Sky Ute Casino lot and Tribal land be used to develop a skateboard park and other facilities related to the Youth Initiative Project, according to a statement by Lindsay Box, Southern Ute Council Affairs. In 2012 the late Chairman, Jimmy R. Newton, Jr. dedicated funding for youth service initiatives, tasking the SCSYAC to survey their peers asking what youth wanted to see in their community. “Lots of ideas came up, but the skate park was what they wanted,” Walton said. “Jimmy’s vison was that the youth were listened to, valued and had a place of their own. Jim was always about the kids.”

“This is the dream of the late Chairman Newton, we need to give respect,” former councilman Alex Cloud said. “Without him, this wouldn’t be here. He set the money aside for a youth project. This is the kids voice, that is how Jim would have wanted it.”

The Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council surveyed their peers at the Southern Ute Education Department’s annual Career Fair in 2016, the number one initiative, favored by local youth, was the skate park. Additionally, students from Ignacio’s High School, Middle School and Elementary School were surveyed — also voting in favor of a skate park facility in the community, explained Education Director LaTitia Taylor.

“I’m really excited that our tribal government, and tribal leadership have listened to our youth,” former councilwoman Amy Barry said.

David Boyd was one of the original proponents for a skate park, a big skateboarder himself, he also served as the chairman on the first SCSYAC. Boyd see the park as an opportunity to keep the youth active, and out of trouble.

“Technically, we want a street course with rails, stairs, boxes and manual pads — maybe a bowl, but not too much [emphasis on that].” Hendren said, when describing the ideal skate park for him and his peers.

Once design plans for the park are finalized, there will be an official ground breaking. The skate park is the first of three phases. Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the Youth Initiative Project will offer opportunities for the youth who don’t necessarily skate or bike, SunUte Director Robin Duffy-Wirth explained. “We have ideas, but we don’t want to move forward without hearing from the youth first.”

“I think it is really exciting that this project is moving forward. There is a need for this in Ignacio. It also needs to be protected, preserved, and taken care of — that is your challenge, there is a lot you can learn from this,” Mike Olguin said, addressing the youth in attendance. “The Sunshine Youth Council was established for you, so that you can have a voice,” Councilwoman Pearl Casias said.

The SCSYAC members have a common goal, they want this park for everybody.

The kids wanted it visible, they didn’t want it in a place where people, couldn’t see it, Duffy-Wirth explained. Three separate youth councils have worked on and researched this intuitive over the years, which includes efforts by SunUte Recreation Director Virgil Morgan and former SunUte management.

“It is good to see it become a reality,” Elijah Weaver said. “It is important because the kids have these talents, but nowhere to express them.”

The project has been a collaborative effort, with input from SunUte, Youth Services, Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council, Tribal Council and the Executive Office. The skate park will be operated as an extension of SunUte, under the oversight of the Recreation Department.

“Today is just a really special day,” said Youth Council member Jazmin Carmenoros.








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