Members of the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council gathered together with recreation staff at the SunUte Community Center, Saturday, Jan. 5 to discuss the community skate park, using the meeting as a work session they narrowed down design concepts for the proposed skate park based off of their collective experiences, bringing the project one step closer to fruition.
The skate park is a youth lead initiative and the direct result of tribal youth, tribal leaders and the community weighing in on what kids feel they need. The park attempts to address the need to bring youth together socially, and in a positive environment. In this case, it also addresses what will encourage them to connect with their community physically and culturally. It has the ability to break down age barriers, while pushing the younger generation to achieve something that they can truly call their own in the process.
“I think skateboarding represents having a place to fit in if you’re a Native kid who isn’t into team sports like basketball or football. It allows for more diversity for their identity,” said Walt Pourier, Oglala Lakota and executive director of the Stronghold Society, a Denver-based nonprofit; when interviewed for a recent article in Indian Country Today titled: Skate Parks Save Lives. “The skate park becomes like a home, a place to grow, to be healthy and active… It’s theirs. They can take it as far as they want it.”
During the planning workshop, an entire wall was dedicated to a pop-up photo display showcasing images from skate parks the youth recently visited, a collage of 5×7 images organized to showcase different details and designs from each of the community orientated skate parks — many of which were established in Native communities. Youth council members used color coded stickers to cast votes, rating their choices first, second and third; giving them an opportunity to weigh in and express their favorite aspects in an ideal park design.
The young tribal members were pressed with hard questions by SunUte staff. “What was it about that ‘feature’ that you liked?” inquired SunUte Director Robin Duffy-Wirth in regards to each of their selections. “What would make you feel safe at this park?” SunUte Recreation Manger Virgil Morgan asked the youth. “What do you not want to see at the park?”
The young council members cited examples of parks they had recently visited, or had the opportunity to experience in their answers. “The meeting was well attended, their thoughts were honored, and engaged,” noted Duffy -Wirth. “They are welcoming us as adults, they are welcoming the multi-generational approach to this project.”
We’re not trying to influence them, but to inspire them,” Morgan emphasized. “Letting the youth know that we hear them is one of the best ways for them to grow and mature. We have respect for the youth, we listen — this is what we do.”
Morgan explained that the youth liked the graffiti art which adorned the skate bowl in Los Altos, N.M., adding that they also connected with Native artwork in center of the skate bowl in Gallup, N.M. “They liked the railing design at the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community because it used native colors from their tribe and hinted at their tribal seal,” Robin said, emphasizing the cultural connection.
Longboarder and youth council representative, Sara Chakee spoke up for what she hopes for in a skate park. The park will be designed around and encourage participation from more than just diehard skaters, it will cater to rollerblades, scooters, longboards and BMX. The incorporation of the splash pad feature adjacent to the skate bowl is still a key design element of the park. Offering a cool down for the athletes in the summer heat, while also engaging younger participants and non-skaters alike.
“We are happy to assist in this endeavor; we are information gathers in respect to this project,” Duffy-Wirth explained. “We were gifted this project, but it’s driven by the youth,”
“We’ve presented to the elders and listened. We’ve presented to the community and listened,” Duffy-Wirth said. Prior to meeting with Natelle Thompson and the Youth Council on Saturday, the SunUte Director sat down with members of the Southern Ute Tribal Planning Department, including: Doug McDonald, Ray Torres, April Toledo, and Mary Monte to discuss the RFP process. “This is unique in that it is a design build situation,” explained Tribal Planner Doug McDonald. The same team that finalizes the design concept will implement and oversee the construction process for this project, due to the specialized concrete work required to meet the expectations of a dedicated skate park.
The next step for SunUte staff is a work session with the Southern Ute Tribal Council scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 7.