Riding the momentum: Community members hope to bring skate park to Lewistown

By: 
Charlie Denison
Reporter

 
Dalton Kjersem of Lewistown does some tricks on his skateboard at the former location of Lewistown’s skate park near 7th Avenue and Highland Park. Kjersem said he is excited about the potential of a new skate park by the grain elevators at 1st and Brassey.
Photo by Charlie Denison

 

A skate park is in the works for Lewistown, and it’s far from a pipe dream. Jason Stephens, Renee Stephens, Luke Brandon and others are leading an effort to create Big Spring Skatepark.

The proposed 15,000-20,000-square-foot park is to be located in the empty lot by the grain elevator on 1st Avenue and Brassey Street, right along the Lewistown Trail System. On Wednesday, the Lewistown Parks and Recreation committee approved the location and plan to move forward and talk with interim City Manager Holly Phelps about it.

Not only do Jason, Renee and Brandon already have a location in mind, but also they are considering designs, including one by Evergreen Skateparks of Portland, Oregon, which put together a design concept.

Renee said Evergreen came highly recommended, as they have designed and built six skate parks in Montana. Evergreen built the parks in Big Sandy, Havre, Stevensville, Hays and, most recently, Malta.

The skate park will have more than half pipes and kidney bowls. It will also have rails, stairs and a flat area for beginners.

“We want to get creative and incorporate street features,” Brandon said. “It will be a good place for the youth to congregate, will increase the traffic on the trails and benefit the kids in the area by keeping them busy and keeping them healthy.”

Extremely passionate about making the skate park happen, Jason and Renee have gone all out, talking with the Central Montana Foundation and creating a fund drive called “Make it Happen.”

The “Make it Happen” mission, Jason said, is to “empower, inspire and invest in opportunity, people and communities to support and make social change.”

A skate park in Lewistown could greatly benefit the youth of town, Jason said, as it provides them with a central gathering point to hang out, have fun and skate, something Jason – a Lewistown native – didn’t have growing up.

“Lewistown isn’t a great place to grow up with an ambition to be a skateboarder,” he said.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, as there is a movement to help youth in communities such as Lewistown, led by Pearl Jam bass player Jeff Ament.

Ament, who grew up in Big Sandy, is a passionate skater. Like Jason, he didn’t have a place to skate growing up, either, and – as a way to give back –he wants to help provide Montana’s youth with more opportunity than he had. That being the case, Ament started a foundation called Montana Pool Service set up specifically to help communities in the Big Sky state get the funding they need to create skate parks, and many communities have taken him up on it, from Big Sandy to Havre to Hays.

Aware of this, Jason, Renee and Brandon started asking, “Why not Lewistown?”

“Seventy percent of the skate parks in Montana are in communities with populations under 10,000,” Luke Brandon told the Lewistown Parks and Recreation Committee Wednesday at the Civic Center. “We’re talking about Whitefish, Glendive, Stevensville and Malta.”

Malta’s skate park had its grand opening last month, and Jason and Renee were there. During the celebration, they had a chance to speak with Ament, who immediately got on board the Lewistown project.

Not long after their meeting, Renee said Montana Pool Service reached out and offered their support towards Big Spring Skatepark.

“Having support from the Montana Pool Service is huge,” Renee said.

Jeff Ament’s Army Skatepark Support System is also on board to help, as are other skate enthusiasts local and statewide, including Chris Bacon of the Montana Skatepark Association, Renee said.

 

Skateboarding a fun, healthy activity

Aware that skateboarders don’t always have the best image, Brandon said there was a lot of negative stereotyping that began in the 1980s regarding reckless skateboarders, but that people should not pay attention to it, as skateboarding can be a fun, clean hobby for the children and teenagers of Lewistown. That being said, Brandon also mentioned during the Parks and Recreation meeting that the park will be a positive environment for the youth who choose to go.

“The park will be a safe place for the children” he said.

Children in Lewistown are also excited for the opportunity, as some feel there is not enough for them to do during the summer.

“A skate park would definitely be something else to do,” said Dalton Kjersem. “As it is now, all we have is the Civic Center and the pool.”

“I think it’d be really cool,” Hailey Bergren said. “I’d go.”

This seems to be the consensus of many youth in the community, Jason said, which makes him optimistic people will come if it is built.

“This is a very positive thing for Lewistown,” Jason said, “and this is a great opportunity for our community. There is a lot of momentum for skate parks in the state right now, and I think we should swing some of this momentum our way.”

Jason said he hopes Big Spring Skatepark is up and running within the next 12-14 months.

Those interested in helping can send to the Central Montana Foundation with Make It Happen in the memo line.

 

 

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