Skatepark raises concerns for tribal elders

Nate Hendren tests the skatepark out in Santa Fe, N.M. by completing skateboard trick, called an “ollie”, while out on an immersive trip with SunUte Community Center and the Southern Ute Executive Office.
Former Councilman, Alex Cloud shares his opinion about the skatepark’s recent development and offers a prayer to conclude the meeting.
Members of the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council sit together and listen to the concerns of elders at the community skatepark focus group meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 7 in the Multi-Purpose Facility.
Courtesy of Virgil Morgan
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum

The skate park planning and development team invited Southern Ute tribal elders to hear the timeline of the new youth skate park project. The meeting was also a time for members to share their ideas and concerns regarding the construction. The meeting was hosted in the gathering room of the Southern Ute Multi-Purpose Facility on Wednesday, Nov. 7.

SunUte Community Center Director Robin Duffy-Wirth presented the planning and focus of the park. She also gave a brief history of the skate park initiative. Starting with the information that dates back to 2015 when SunUte Community Center Recreation Manager Kevin Winkler traveled to Denver, Arvada and Brighton, Colo. to gather information about the planning, design, involvement and construction of skate parks. He met with park managers and skaters and came back to the Southern Ute reservation with a presentation for the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council —sharing his experience to develop the working relationship that currently exists in the active efforts of developing the skate park.

From that trip it was clear that community involvement and support are the foundation of this project. The planning should include correct budget management, proper maintenance and that the location will be key in this project’s success.

The goal of the tribal elder meeting was to receive input about the ways the park can represent Ute culture, find ways for the park to have intergenerational use, and how the skate park can remain relevant to the tribal membership. “We need to take interest in our children, they’ve been talking about this for a long time,” former Councilman Alex Cloud emphasized following the presentation.

The Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council was in attendance for the gathering, they helped serve the elders the light refreshments that were available and they shared their thoughts and plans for the skate park. “What do you want?” Southern Ute Councilman, Melvin Baker questioned the youth. “We want this skatepark to be diverse and open,” Chairman of the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council, Elijah Weaver stated. “It really helped get their minds clear.”

One of the most common concerns for the skate park was the cost and how involved the tribal member youth will be. “The skate park is really just the first phase of things,” said Southern Ute Vice Chairman, Cheryl Frost. “We’re hopeful it [the skate park] will help the kids in the future and hopefully it will help them to prosper.”

As the talk of money came about, tribal elders spoke of the BP settlement and why the money is not being raised by the youth. “If you want something you work hard for it,” Southern Ute elder Renee Tree stated. “They [the youth] should go out and get the money.” Echoing this same statement, Evalyn Russel said, “We worked for the things we wanted.”

“I believe we have a lack of communication, with our youth and with Tribal Council,” Russel said.

Money has been allocated to the project through Resolution 2010-122 by the late Chairman Jimmy Newton Jr. Newton stated that one half of the BP settlement money would go to the tribal membership and the second half would be put into a restricted fund for the youth. “Half went to the membership and the other half is going to go towards youth initiatives,” Southern Ute Councilman Adam Red stated.

Currently the skate park team has acquired land through a dedication from the Southern Ute Tribal Council. The land dedication comes from an area of tribal trust land that will be led in its future development by the SunUte Community Center per Resolution No. 2018-133.

Two separate trips have already been completed this year, so participants could experience skateparks first hand, these were made possible with the help of the Southern Ute Tribal Council, the Executive Office, the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council, SunUte Community Center, Southern Ute Police Department and the Tribal Planning office. The latest trip took 13 Native American students through four cities to view six skate parks in Gallup, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe, N.M., ending in Pagosa Springs, Colo.  “We saw how skateparks impacted these towns—it was all for the better,” Weaver said.

The skatepark planning and development team will host a second focus group meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 28 in the gathering room of the Southern Ute Multi-Purpose Facility for all tribal members.

“This is a bold step for our young people,” Councilman Red said at the end of the development meeting. “I’m proud of all of you — you’re the voice of the youth and you’re doing a good job.”



Like it? Share it!