November 28, 2008 · Updated 1:27 PM
t Skatepark is top on skater’s wish list.
SUQUAMISH — Ask a group of about 10 Suquamish skateboarders what they want for Christmas and they’ll agree on one thing. They want their own pavement to ride.
From kick-flips by the Suquamish Shell Station to pop-shove-its at the Suquamish Elementary School, the close group of boys practice their sport of choice every day. The problem is, there’s really no place in town anymore where they’re allowed to hone in boarding skills like the coveted “Tre” flip — a 360 degree, pop-shove-it with a kick-flip.
“It’s been about a year we’ve been telling people we want a skatepark,” said 12-year-old Jeremy Old Coyote. “It’d just be better than us just skateboarding around. We’ve been told we really can’t skate at the Shell Station or the (Suquamish Elementary) school anymore because people have been (spraying graffiti) there.”
The only place the boys haven’t been kicked out of so far is the parking lot by Bella Luna Pizza in downtown Suquamish, said skateboarder Tim Clark.
Clark, 12, who attends Kingston Middle School with Old Coyote, said it’s hard to continue the sport he loves without a venue.
“I’ve been skateboarding for four or five years but after two (years) I got bored of going around and getting kicked out of places,” he said.
The nearest skateparks are Kingston’s Billy Johnson Skate Park on Lindvog Road and at Raab Park in Poulsbo. Because most of the Suquamish skateboarders are 12 years old, driving isn’t an option.
“We usually get kicked out of places when we skate in Suquamish and the closest skateparks are in Poulsbo or Kingston and my parents don’t really like to drive all the time,” said Michael Simmons, 12.
About two months ago, the boys took action.
Three of the boys — Old Coyote, Simmons and Clark’s older brother Robert Clark, 14, walked into the Suquamish Tribal Administration building and made an appointment to speak to Wayne George, executive director of the Suquamish Tribe. They asked about the possibility of getting a skatepark in Suquamish. To their surprise, George told them the topic had already been posed at some of their meetings.
“I’ve always thought the kids needed a place,” said Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman.
Forsman was the first to sign a petition for people interested in getting a skatepark in Suquamish back in September when Lydia Sigo, a member of the Suquamish Citizens Advisory Committee, posted the list at the Suquamish Open House.
Since then, more than 70 people signed the list.
Skateparks benefit boarders and business
Sigo, who works as a curator and archivist for the Suquamish Museum, is helping lead the boys’ effort because she grew up in Suquamish and said the community needs more parks for kids and teens to keep out of trouble.
She said she’s looking into grants and researching the steps required to get a skatepark.
“We’re trying to talk directly with the tribe and look for an area that would be good for it,” Sigo said. “We’re thinking in a commercial-type area because we don’t want to bother neighbors.”
The boys have a site in mind on Suquamish Way, across from the Tribal Administration Building, Suquamish Police Station and Shell Station. In addition to making the boys’ wish come true, having a skatepark in that area would reduce the possibility of mischief and also benefit local businesses, Tim Clark said.
“It would help the Shell (Station) because more people would be going by it to get there,” he said, adding that skateboarders would likely stop in and grab something to eat and drink during their skateboarding sessions.
According to the Tony Hawk Foundation Web site, there are about 2,000 skateparks nationwide serving the skateboarding population of about 13 million. According to the community benefits stated on the site, there’s one that falls under economics: bringing more revenue to local businesses.
According to the Web site, when a skatepark opens, “it tends to draw folks from the outlying communities to come bring their kids to the skatepark, do some shopping, maybe have lunch, buy some gas ... . Skateparks attract patrons to local businesses that might not otherwise be in the area.”
Parents support boys’ effort
One of the battles the boys face is the all-too-common perception that skateboarders cause trouble.
“Most of the people who cause trouble at the skateparks aren’t actually people who skateboard, just people who hang out because they have no other place to go,” said 24-year-old skateboarder Dan McDougall of Kingston.
About 10 years ago, when McDougall was 14, he and a group of friends worked hard to get the county onboard with creating a skatepark in Kingston. After two years of holding car-washes, running community events, selling buttons and T-shirts and holding meetings with the county commissioners, the boys got their park. It’s now Kingston’s Billy Johnson skatepark.
Altogether the boys raised $75,000 for the park, McDougall said.
“Looking back, it’s good to see that the younger generation still respects the sport of skateboarding and is pushing to get a comfortable place to ride where they won’t have to worry about getting kicked out,” he said.
Sara Clark, who is the mother of Robert and Tim Clark, said she is very proud of the boys for going to the Tribal Administration and maturely addressing the matter.
“There’s just no place for them to go and there’s a decent amount of skateboarders here,” she said. “I love it. It’s fun watching them; that’s all they do and Robert has posters all over the wall for skateboarding.”
Lisa Sparks, mother of Jeremy Old Coyote, recently took a road-trip to see family in California. On their way down, she stopped at skateparks for Old Coyote to ride.
“There was local art and sculpture and real strict helmet laws. I thought something like this would be so cool in Suquamish,” she said.
Sparks said Old Coyote is a great student who takes his sport seriously.
“He loves it as a sport and he’s a good kid. There is a stigma that comes with any sport whether basketball or baseball or whatever but these are good kids,” she said. “All sports come with risks. It comes down to who our kids are and their own integrity.”
Sigo is currently researching the possibility of fiscal sponsorship from a foundation to gain the benefits of fundraising as a nonprofit until the process of incorporating Suquamish Skatepark as its own nonprofit is complete.
“This alliance would provide structure and support for the organization while the non-profit papers are being processed with the state and would allow us to apply for grant funding as a non-profit under the foundation’s wing,” she said.
Those interested in getting involved can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.