Blackfoot Valley Dispatch - The Blackfoot Valley's News Source Since 1980

By Hope Quay

Lincoln kids find support for skate park


November 7, 2018

Lincoln students pose with Peal Jam drummer Jeff Ament last month during his visit to talk about a possible skate park.

When Lincoln Schools English teacher Philip Reed heard two of his students discussing Pearl Jam drummer Jeff Ament's skatepark project last year, he encouraged them to write in to the foundation, nominating Lincoln for a park.

"There's s quite a large at-risk community here in Lincoln for young kids that most small towns in Montana really don't have," Reed said. "I think...trying to provide as much for the kids to keep them active and out of trouble...that's one of the big goals for me."

Ament, who is from Big Sandy, Mont., has helped fund 23 skate parks in Montana in the past 18 years. Backed by hiss Montana Pool Service Fundation and Pearl Jam's Vitalogy Foundation, Ament partners with Evergreen Skateparks and local organizations, parks departments and municipalities to bring world-class skateparks to small communities across Montana.

"They had sent a letter but hadn't heard anything back, so around April I sent an email to the Pearl Jam Vitalogy Foundation, saying that we had some kids that were interested...and then Jeff e-mailed me back personally and explained that his organization gives $100,000 matching grants," Reed, a self-described `huge Pearl Jam Fan,' told the BVD. "He was really excited and said 'let's get something in the ground by 2019.' That's when I said 'that's an awful lot of money to raise in this town in a short amount of time,' and then he got back with me and said 'I would give you guys $50,000 just straight up, no matching.'"

A few weeks after Pearl Jam played in Missoula in August, Ament stopped by to meet with Reed and Lincoln students.

"That's kind of when the process really got started," Reed said.

The idea of a skatepark was met with motivated enthusiasm by a handful of students ranging in age from 10 to 16, and the Lincoln Skatepark Committee was born.

"They're kind of taking one for the team – they want to make this happen for the town, so they're really motivated," Reed said of the five girls. "I'm pretty proud of them."

Sixteen-year-old Makenzie Storey, a junior who plays violin and puts in long hours at the local grocery store, acts as the group's spokesperson. She and fellow junior Maya Whittenberg presented the proposal to the Lincoln Park Board and the Upper Blackfoot Valley Community Council. They also co-authored a recent editorial about the park.

"I wasn't skating at a very young age, but I used to see the people on TV and think 'I want to be like that one day,'" Storey told the BVD. "Once I did finally start helped me out a was a major coping mechanism for me. I know there's a lot of kids here who need another outlet, in town, and there's a lot of kids here who also do want to skate, and I'm one of those kids."

Storey also argues the benefits of physical activity and the outdoors for kids who don't enjoy or have access to Lincoln's traditional outdoor pastimes.

"There are some kids that...are playing a major part in this town that can't go out and hunt or don't have access to go hunt. They don't always have someone to go hunting or fishing with," she said. "With skating, it's a coping mechanism for a lot of these kids. It's another positive outlet for kids here in town."

A 2015 skating accident that left her with eight screws and a metal plate in her wrist has not dimmed Storey's love of the sport. Instead, the experience serves as a talking point in her argument for a skatepark in Lincoln.

"My injury didn't happen in a skatepark, my injury happened on a road," she said. "I was transitioning from a smooth paved road onto a gravel road like we have here in Lincoln...that's another risk factor. A lot of kids can't ride around in Lincoln because of the's very unpredictable skating on a highway or a road."

"Right now, our main concern has been getting the location secure," Reed said. "That's one of the things we did when Jeff came to town, was we looked at places. We thought about maybe Lambkin Park. Lambkin Park could definitely use something going on there, but the water table ended up being an issue... then we thought Hooper would be ideal, so we've been going around getting support from the different local groups, like the Lincoln Parks Board and the Community Council."

The Skatepark Committee hopes to secure a location in Hooper Park near Highway 200, where the horseshoe pits are now located.

"I'm all for it, they're doing a fabulous job," said Lincoln Parks Board Treasurer Jesse Sallin. "It was well thought out, well presented...very good."

Sallin said the Lincoln Parks Board has no major concerns that she's aware of. "I like the spot they're going to put it because it's right by the road – anybody can watch and see how things are going, and people will also realize, if it's right there, that we have one, which is good. I hope that it goes."

The Parks Board has discussed installing horseshoe pits at another location in Hooper Park, should the skatepark become a reality, Sallin said.

Reed has also enlisted the help of Blackfoot Challenge Rural Sustainability Coordinator Karyn Good in the quest to find funding for the skatepark, but Good said they're waiting on approval from the City/County Park Board, since they need support and approval for venue space when applying for grants. The Skatepark Committee hopes to present to them in December, armed with a letter of support from the UBVCC.

"They have a plan, they've raised money, they're looking forward and they're going to the County," UBVCC chair Bill Frisbee said at the Nov. 2 Government Day meeting. "They are not stopping. They already have pledges of over $50,000 to build a skate board area in Hooper Park, and the Community Council is 100 percent behind that. Anytime we can throw our support behind anybody who is trying to make things better for our valley, we wholeheartedly jump in and do whatever we can."

Bailee Henderson, Makenzie Story and Tanea Reisch join Jeff Ament for a photo.

"The presentation by those middle and high school students from Lincoln School was truly impressive," County Commissioner Susan Good Geise said at the same meeting. "They're very enthusiastic...but they were very open to some practical aspects of this, and some logistical challenges that they will be facing as they move forward. They didn't seem to be daunted by that. They have the support of one of their teachers...and we look forward to seeing how this thing is going to develop"

Geise said they process takes a long time and it's already nearly winter, so it won't be done by next summer, but she said the commissioners hope to work with them closely to help them achieve their goal. "They weren't just sitting on their hands waiting for someone to cough up cash for them. They have plans of their own to earn a lot of their own money. They have thought that part out pretty will be hearing from these young people, and I always think it's a good idea to encourage them."


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