When I moved back to Spearman, Texas in 2005, I was hired by Spearman ISD to fill the 5th grade Science position at Gus Birdwell Elementary. I immediately saw a need for a skatepark because of the usage that my own backyard mini-ramp was getting on a daily basis. Also as an elementary school teacher, I would hear kids discuss the idea of Spearman having a skatepark during class and around town. I started thinking nostalgically to myself about kids of the past growing up here and not having a chance to skate transitions and other obstacles that an individual would find at skateparks.
So throughout the years of 2005 and 2006 I discussed the idea with the City Manager. I met with him many times discussing the skatepark idea and the positive aspects it had to offer our community. My first conversation with him I remember very well because he made me feel like my idea was completely crazy and too far out of reach. I left with disappointment and anger. As a city manager, I knew he had to think about the citizens and how they would accept the project. On top of that, it was going to be the citizen’s tax dollars funding the project. I quickly realized that being angry was not going to get us anywhere. So for the next couple of months I approached him very positively, excited, and eager to do whatever I had to do to make the project happen.
I continued speaking with the City Manager about the skatepark on several different occasions through the year of 2006. He finally suggested that I speak to the City Council. I was new to the order in which the city government worked. Basically, the council approves and disapproves of projects as well as sets budgets for them. It wasn’t the city manager I had to convince, it was the city council I had to convince.
I started keeping a detailed log of anyone from out of town and out of state that used the park. This was proof that Spearman’s economy benefiting from the park. I used this as one of the flames to ignite phase two.
I immediately started lobbying for the skatepark. I needed the citizens of Spearman to start talking about the skatepark. I didn’t care if it was negative or positive. I just needed a buzz going around Spearman about the skatepark.
My first lobbying effort was with donation buckets. I placed these buckets at local businesses around town that said, “Spearman Skatepark, Help Our Dreams Become A Reality”. This phrase was put above a picture that was taken of kids at my house in front of my half-pipe. Honestly, this didn’t raise much money, but it did raise awareness of the project. You could say this was the beginning stage of the project in the community’s eyes.
The second attempt was using the money from the donation buckets to purchase t-shirts that said, “Spearman Skatepark, Help Our Dreams Become A Reality”. I rounded up about 80 local kids one Saturday morning on two flat bed trailers and took them door to door asking for donations while wearing the t-shirts. Not only did we raise a decent amount of money going door to door, but we showed the city government and citizens how bad we wanted the park. The t-shirts continued to speak out about the park as kids wore them. The buzz was continuing and that was exactly what we needed.
I also created another fundraiser during this time by using the some of the money that I had raised and held a skateboard raffle. The winner of this raffle would win a complete Element skateboard. This event was very successful. Following this I wrote an article for the Hansford County Reporter Statesman about the positive aspects of skateboarding. I interviewed kids around town and put their quotes in the article.
On June, 20 2006, I approached the City Council for the first time. I went to the meeting nervous and excited. I made sure not to be demanding and focus on being positive and gracious of whatever they had to say about the idea. I talked to them about skateparks and their benefits with data to back it up. I talked to them about the types of skateparks and which would be the best between the two types, modular or concrete. I told them that if we are going to build something we should make it world class so that economically we could benefit. I also told them I would do whatever I had to do to make a skatepark happen for Spearman. Whether it took 1 month, 1 year, 5 years, or even 10 years, I wasn’t going to stop raising money until Spearman had a world class skatepark. All I needed was their approval and a site. They told me thanks for my time and they would discuss the idea.
In any grant application it is always good to send support letters along with it. Out of 73 communities that had applied throughout America only 23 were awarded a grant. Spearman, Texas received $5,000 from the foundation and this triggered the motivation for the city to begin sending out bids request for the construction of the skatepark.
On January 16, 2007 I went to the City Council and spoke again about the implementation of the park. This time I brought a committee that consisted of the Elementary Counselor, Jim Reeves, and Spearman Resource Director, Cindy Blackman. Plus many local adults and kids attended the meeting to speak on behalf of the skatepark. The City of Spearman donated a site and $60,000 dollars for the construction of a skatepark. One month later a dispute arose about the location of the project. A few citizens didn’t want the park built in the area because it was going to be to close to their houses. I guess they were afraid that skaters were problem kids and could cause trouble. The City Council basically told them if they wanted to move the project than they were going to have to donate some money to move it. The skatepark site ended up being moved to its current location.
I spent a lot of time gathering support letters for the skatepark project and applied for a grant from The Tony Hawk Foundation. In any grant application it is always good to send support letters along with it. Out of 73 communities that had applied throughout America only 23 were awarded a grant. Spearman, Texas received $5,000 from the foundation and this triggered the motivation for the city to begin sending out bids request for the construction of the skatepark. Lone Star Skateparks (now Parthenon Custom Concrete) out of Austin, Texas was hired and in October of 2007 phase one of the Palo Duro Skatepark was completed.
Once phase 1 of the park opened, citizens of Spearman realized the park was beneficial to our community. Many kids started using the facility. Whether it was for skating or hanging out, the park was getting usage. Not only were our local individuals using the park, but individuals from surrounding areas were using the facility. Visitors from Texas towns like Perryton, Gruver, Borger, Sunray, Dalhart, Stratford, Austin, San Antonio, Lubbock, Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Galveston, and Canadian used the facility. Plus visitors from out of state came from Arizona, Oklahoma, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Pennsylvania. I started keeping a detailed log of anyone from out of town and out of state that used the park. This was proof that Spearman’s economy was benefiting from the park. I used this as one of the flames to ignite phase two.
After many conversations throughout the years of 2007-2008 with the City Manager and Public Works Director, the city officials came to understand that more elements were needed to stop the crash-up ratio and complete my idea of having a world class skatepark. I had also written another article for the paper about the proper etiquette for using the skatepark and again used quotes from kids. I feel that this raised more awareness for the citizens of Spearman and they began to talk about its expansion.
In January of 2008, the City of Spearman budgeted $60,000 more dollars for a phase two of Palo Duro Skatepark. The bids went out and Lone Star Skateparks (now Parthenon Custom Concrete) out of Austin, Texas was hired again for construction of phase two. However, in order to completely fulfill the complete design of the second phase more money had to be raised. By this time I had been established as a non-profit organization with the name, The Skatepark Fundhouse, Inc. It takes awhile to be acknowledged as a non-profit entity by the State of Texas. I was grateful by June of 2008 that the State of Texas gave me the title of being a 501c3 non-profit organization.
My next fundraising endeavor came with idea that would be incorporated into phase two of the park. This phase was going to have a wall built around the park. I thought to myself that this would be a perfect place for engraved bricks to be placed on the wall to show individuals support and business advertisements. The contractor told me it would be no problem to make that happen. As a result, of this idea I ended up raising $13,000. I also applied for another grant and was granted $10,000 towards the construction of phase two. The City of Spearman decided to budget more funds for the project due to some issues that had risen during the construction. So along with City of Spearman’s new budget and the money The Skatepark Fundhouse, Inc. donated towards the construction of phase two, it was completed by September of 2008.
Phases 3-6 were all made possible by The Skatepark Fundhouse, Inc. with all money that had been raised through the various fundraisers and grants that had taken place throughout the entire process. The third phase was a retaining wall that was built on the south and west end of the park to stop erosion of the soil underneath the park. The fourth and fifth phase consisted of a ditch section and a sidewalk with gaps and steps.
The sixth phase was built to close off the ditch section with some transition to allow more flow to the park. This creation ended up being a rainbow/arched doorway. In addition, there will be three future phases to be built by The Skatepark Fundhouse, Inc.
The first of the future phases will be a long ledge on the south side of the park between the side walk and bowl’s deck. There will also be a landing zone for the steps section built during this time. Following this construction there will be a brick-banked-hip adjacent to the bricked-bank-gap. To finish out the bricked bank area there will be another brick bank built up to the backside of the flat bar quarter. In the picture, you can see the flat bar quarter to the right of the steps. The future plans also have a hubba down the steps as well. However, these plans could be subject to change.
“Nothing happens until I make it happen.” and “If not us, who? If not now, when?”. These two great quotes from Scott Wilson and John F. Kennedy truly represent the building blocks from which this project has evolved. Don’t ever think something is too far out of reach. The Palo Duro Skatepark is truly a blessing to Spearman, Texas and for that matter the State of Texas.
Words, photos: Chad Wilkerson.