Building Skateparks in Indian Country

Over the last couple of years we have seen an influx of public skateparks being built on Native American reservations. In fact, this is happening across the country in towns such as Tuba City, AZ; Sand Springs, OK and Pine Ridge, SD. Recently, we sat down with Lisa Fabian of the Nashoba Youth Foundation out of Poteau, OK. In the past year, Lisa has done an amazing job of getting a skatepark built in her hometown of Poteau, and another one started in the nearby town of Heavener. Both towns are on the Choctaw Reservation in Eastern Oklahoma.

Tell us about your background as a Billingual Director at Heavener Schools and the Nashoba Youth Foundation?

I have been the Bilingual Director at Heavener Schools for 15 years now. I founded Nashoba Youth Foundation in January 2011.

The Foundation was formed to combat problems faced by “at-risk” Native youth, and youth in general living in rural low income multicultural communities. There are a lot of problems the youth in this area face such as diabetes, obesity, substance abuse, suicide, teen pregnancy and dropouts.

What sparked your interest in getting a skatepark built in Poteau and Heavener??? Was it after you saw the park in Sand Springs???

The thing that sparked my interest was the fact that the youth in our area did not have ample outdoor activities. We needed something for those kids that do not get into team sports.

While researching I found information about the skatepark in Sand Springs. After checking it out and talking to Ryan Podswitt and Greg Mize with Native Skateparks, I knew that was what we needed.

Sand Springs, OK completed in 2010

Where were kids skating before the park and how far were they traveling to skate other parks?

The kids did not have a safe place to skate. They were skating at the fire station, on the incline at Arby’s, public parking lots and mostly the streets. They had to travel to Tulsa, which is almost two hours away to skate.

When you first approached Poteau and Heavener how did they respond???

When I first approached Poteau and Heavener the positive response was overwhelming. I began by approaching the City Manager at Heavener and the Mayor at Poteau. We then addressed it with the City Council. The vote in each town was unanimous.

Where did the funding for both projects come from?

The funding came from the cities, the Tony Hawk Foundation, the Nashoba Youth Foundation, other grants, and in-kind donations.

How long did it take from when you first approached Poteau to the ground breaking of the park?

We first approached Poteau the last week of January 2011 and the ground breaking began in July of 2011.

The construction crew pours the flat bottom.

You guys recently did a grand opening for Poteau how did that go, and how was the skatepark received by the community

The Grand Opening was exceptional. There were close to 400 in attendance. Todd Harder of Native Skates and the All Nation Skate Jam was there along with Doug Brown of Skate Straight. The Mayor and his wife told me that “…the dedication was grand.” and “…the turnout was excellent.” They also said I should be very proud of the new park.

The Mayor was also impressed with the quality of persons that Todd and Doug were. Everyone was impressed with the park and it has been received well from the community.

I have parents approaching me all the time telling me thank you and how their child’s grades have improved and how important it is to have something to keep them active. Plus I get a lot of kids thanking me. They also tell me, “…this is a dream come true.” and “…this is the best ideal ever.”

Poteau Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Todd Harder(left) and Lisa Fabian(right) at the Grand Opening.

What is going on with Heavener???

We have funding for the skatepark, but since it is a combination skatepark/splash pad we still need to raise more money. We hope to break ground soon on it. The skatepark has been approved; the plan, the design, and the contractor are all approved.

The design for Heavener.

What are your future plans for more skateparks in the area???

We would like to help other towns in the rural Southeast build skateparks. Especially to help “at-risk” youth and begin having Skate Jams in this area. I hope to see Poteau and Heavener become the pioneers of this. In March, we will have our first Skate Jam in Poteau.

Awesome Lisa! Thank you for the interview!

Bart shredding the new park!!!