Skatepark breaks ground at SunUte

With crucial infrastructure already in place, Weeminuche Construction Authority, out of Towaoc, Colo., prep utility access for the new skate park, Wednesday, June 17.
A 3D rendering shows the working design for the skatepark located in SunUte park.
A 3D rendering shows the working design for the skatepark located in SunUte park.
A 3D rendering shows the working design for the skatepark located in SunUte park. The basketball court is visible at the top of the rendering.
A 3D rendering shows the working design for the skatepark located in SunUte park.
The Southern Ute Construction Services Department lends a hand with equipment to remove surface material, which is stockpiled for later use, and haul in gravel to the new skate park site neighboring SunUte Park, Wednesday, June 17.
Southern Ute Construction Services heavy equipment operator, Matthew Box lifts material to be loaded into dump trucks, clearing the area for the new skate park located east of the SunUte Community Center.
Utilized their own equipment, Southern Ute Construction Services assist Weeminuche Construction by hauling away material and delivering gravel to the site of the future skate park, located east of the SunUte Community Center.
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum

New location offers more for skaters

Breaking ground for the new skate park has begun east of SunUte Community Center, and it’s been a long time coming. Construction began the week of June 15 in Ignacio, following a blessing of the new grounds by Sun Dance Chief, Byron Frost, Friday, June 12.

Following protocol, and under strict Southern Ute Incident Management Team Coronavirus regulations, Weeminuche Construction Authority from Towaoc, Colo. has begun official construction for the new skate park, located between the baseball field and playground at the SunUte Park.

As protocol dictates, the Southern Ute Tribe’s Building Inspector will be on-site daily to monitor construction activities.

The project team leaders, SunUte Director, Robin Duffy-Wirth, Property and Facilities Director, Tyson Thompson, and Director of Tribal Housing, Garry Fulks will oversee the skate park project. “We are glad to finally get the skate park construction off the ground,” Southern Ute Tribal Housing Director, Garry Faulks said.

The Southern Ute Tribal Council approved the relocation of the skate park to the new site, which was initially proposed as an ‘alternate site’ from the original planned site across from the Thriftway convenience store.

As the newly appointed Executive Officer, McKean Walton approached SunUte Director, Robin Duffy-Wirth and expressed a desire to get the skate park built and operational. Duffy-Wirth stated, “McKean really pushed to get it going,” and with that, SunUte Recreation Manager Virgil Morgan, Walton and Duffy-Wirth took members of the Sunshine Cloud Smith Youth Advisory Council (SCSYAC) on a skate trip, of sorts, visiting and skating at various skate parks throughout the Four Corners region, and other states.

The SCSYAC visited, and skated various skate parks in Albuquerque, N.M., Phoenix, Ariz., Durango, Colo., Farmington, N.M., to name a few, and expressed their opinions on what they liked about each skate park they visited.

Enter Brad Siedlecki – designer, skater, action-sports enthusiast, and owner/operator of Pillar Design Studios. Pillar Design Studios, LLC is a Landscape Architecture firm that specializes in Action Sports design (Skate/BMX/Moto), planning, construction and process services; founded in 2006.

Siedlecki visited with the Ignacio skating community and guided them through stages of building the skate park. Asking them what they wanted, how they skated, what they envisioned their skate park to look like. Siedlecki said in a previous article published in the Southern Ute Drum, “you will need to show success in these first stages of the skate park masterplan,” Siedlecki emphasized to the young skaters at a meeting held last year with Tribal Council members, contractors, planners, designers and community members.

With wishes and desires in hand – contractors, planners, and various departments took their vision to the Southern Ute Tribal Council and got the go-ahead to proceed. However, a few obstacles still laid in the path of the new skate park.

Safety, security and management were going to need to be addressed before the skateboard wheels hit the concrete.

In the original Master Plan, the proposed skate park site was to be constructed directly across from the Thriftway, on the old Pino-Nuche hotel and the Sky Ute Casino grounds. Safety became a major concern with skaters needing to cross HWY 171 to get to Thriftway for snacks, drinks and such. A walkway and pedestrian lights were ideas to address this, but would prove costly and working with the Colorado Department of Transportation would have taken extra time and money.

Funding for the project would suffer, as money would be diverted towards issues of safety, security and other amenities. The SCSYAC were shown an alternate site to move the skate park, away from the busy highway, thus freeing up funds towards more skatable park surface that would have gone to a crosswalk and additional infrastructure. A skate bowl was born.

More importantly, the infrastructure is already present on the SunUte property. Bathrooms are available as well. Upkeep will be overseen by SunUte and the grounds maintained by the Southern Ute Grounds Maintenance Dept. These will offset costs, and with the additional savings, a skate bowl, initially part of the alternate design could now be added.

“We wanted to do what the kids wanted,” said Thompson. “But we were facing budget challenges,” he said.

In the initial stages of construction, a collaborative effort with the Southern Ute Construction Services Department and Weeminuche Construction Advisory (WCA) from Towaoc, Colo., Construction Services is providing basic excavation, material is being removed utilizing Construction Services equipment and gravel is being brought in using the department’s dump trucks as well.

“We are doing what we can to help,” said Matthew Box, heavy equipment operator for Southern Ute Construction Services.

Front end loaders, dump trucks and excavators have been busy moving material in and out of the site. Various entities are collaborating to make the skate park a reality for the Ignacio community. Weeminuche Construction will be handling the construction from start to finish.

Pillar Design Studios will be on hand for the actual design of the skate park, SunUte will be managing the skate park once complete, and Southern Ute Tribal Housing, Construction Services, and Property and Facility have been actively contributing to the skate park project.

The goal is to have the skate park complete by Thanksgiving, 2020. “It’s a beautiful collaboration, it’s what we can do for the kids!” exclaimed Duffy-Wirth.

The project management team expresses to community members to stay clear of the construction site. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe is still under the Stay at Home Order and all Southern Ute Tribal Parks, including the SunUte Park and playground, are currently closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additional information can be obtained from the Skate Park Project Team: Robin-Duffy Wirth, SunUte Community Center at 907-563-0214; Tyson Thompson, Property and Facilities 970-563-2945; or Garry Fulks, Tribal Housing Director at 970-563-2723.

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