In this column, earlier in the year, I briefly mentioned a very special project happening on the Port Gamble S’Klallam reservation: an outdoor park designed with active teens and kids in mind. I’m proud to announce that the first phase — a skatepark — is now complete!
While this is a project our Tribal Council and other leaders support, we have stayed relatively hands-off, letting the hard work of some very dedicated youth shine through.
On our reservation, there aren’t many outdoor options for kids, especially teens, to just hang out. Two years ago, our sixth- to 12th-grade youth leadership council — S’Klallams Working and Giving (SWAG) — set out to change that.
SWAG members wanted to build a place where they could express themselves while doing more with their friends than playing video games. It was from that simple spark of an idea that the park, with a name meaning “it becomes new” in the S’Klallam language, was born.
In 2012, to get the project off the ground, members of SWAG (aided by PGST staffers) submitted their project proposal to The Sheckler Foundation’s “Be the Change” competition. The foundation — the brainchild of professional skateboarder Ryan Sheckler to benefit and empower kids — selected the project as one of four finalists. It was then chosen as the winner by popular vote.
The kids from SWAG took this huge initial victory and kept going. Working with representatives from Sheckler as well as PGST staff, they fleshed out their project plan. What started as a skatepark grew to include a sports court that will accommodate basketball, volleyball and other court sports, an equipment shed, and a Ga-Ga court (Ga-Ga is a variant of dodgeball). All of these projects are to be included in the next phase of the park.
In early November of this year, the skatepark — a rolling concrete course complete with half-pipes and ramps — opened. Despite the rainy, gray fall weather, kids and teens and a few adults from all over the reservation have been using the park daily. It’s so good to have an option for our Tribe’s kids and their friends to hang out and be active. In today’s technology driven, social media world, getting outside and playing isn’t the pastime it once was and we’ve all paid a price for that. This park is a good step toward encouraging a lifetime of healthy activities.
In addition to helping oversee the completion of the park’s amenities, SWAG is also working to put their personal stamp on the project. For example, Nooksack artist and educator Louie Gong has offered to help on a possible project, and youth artists will be working with S’Klallam artist Jimmy Price to carve a greeting sign. Brandon Halsey, a high school SWAG member and one of the leaders for the park project, created the SWAG logo that may be used on this latter sign. They’re also looking toward the future: the hope is that after the initial project is complete, they can begin planning for surrounding bike trails.
While The Sheckler Foundation was the principal sponsor of the project, many other businesses have donated, in whole or part, their services, including Eglon Landscaping, MAP, Ltd., Krazan and Associates, and Grindline, a Seattle company specializing in skate park design and construction. The Tribe’s Utilities and Housing departments have also contributed financially and in the hours of work they have spent on the site.
The success of this first phase is inspiration to our SWAG kids to keep going. The rest of the park is slated for completion next year.
SWAG is seeking donations to help defray costs. In addition to financial support, they would be happy to receive any donations of lumber or sporting goods. If you or your business is interested in supporting the project, please contact Kelly Sullivan at email@example.com, or 360-297-6259.
— Jeromy Sullivan is chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.