Thursday, May 3, 2007

History of the SkateParkforMemphis : Part 1

The launch of the website

SkateLife : Memphis started out when our family- my wife and two boys moved here in August from the Bay area in California to work at St. Jude. When we arrived here, we expected to find a major skatepark in Memphis and perhaps some nice neighborhood skateparks in other nearby towns. Thankfully we managed to discover Oxford, South Haven, Houston, Hornlake and the SPOM skateparks- however none of these parks are really that accessible for any skater living in the heart of Memphis- especially for all the youth that don't have access to transportation. Skateparks in California are now as common as having a baseball or soccer field. Almost every small town or city has one so needless to say it was a major surprise not to find one here. I was so bummed I spent my vacation time before starting work at the Hospital working on getting the Skate Life website together. We managed to launch it at the beginning of September.

Meeting Detric Golden:

One of the first persons I met was Detric Golden who runs an after school program called Golden Child Ministries out of the Greenlaw community center- the center is located just North of St. Jude by Bridges USA. Golden's story of how he became involved with working with inner city youth is incredible. His effectivness is evident in the behavior of his kids in his program. Hopefully he will continue to become more recognized and his program will grow like Streets Ministries without losing his one-on-one relationships with the kids. The story behind our meeting was noteworthy. In September I happened to meet Jim Boyd at BridgesUSA. I proposed the skatepark idea to him and he suggested having it built at Greenlaw. I checked out Greenlaw and started to pace out the squarefootage of the area surrounding the community center and Golden (who I didn't know ) came up looking at me suspciously wondering what in the world I was doing pacing off steps at his center. We had breakfast the following week and started to brainstorm how we could get a skatepark going and decided the best place to start was to introduce skateboarding to the kids in his program. His kids are stoked on skateboarding and the rest is history. Two of his kids come over to my house once a week and we skate on the backyard ramp as well as practice back-flips on the trampoline. We take trips to the Skate Park of Memphis once every couple of months complements of Josh, Becky, Lance and Shannon at the park. Josh and company are stoked at getting some more skate space and have been big supporters of this project. They helped us raise money to purchase skate equipment for Goldens youth. Another major player has been Brian Cage down in Oxford. He's provided us boards at wholesale. He currently owns and runs Suite 10 skate boards down in Oxford.

Meeting Greg Simmons:

A guy named Greg Simmons emailed from the website. He's been a huge support for getting the skatepark movement off the ground and runs a great organization called Check out his site when you get a chance. He's a real inspiration for young BMX riders. They do skate and bike demos so drop them a line if you want to set something up. He's been in the Memphis Skate scene since the 1970's so it's like having a walking history lesson if you ever want to know just how skating used to be in Memphis before liability issues forced the closure of some major skateparks here.

Parks and Recreation meeting:

We met with Cindy Buchanan and her colleagues about the getting a skatepark. From that meeting I have had the honor of befriending Rita Dorsey who works with Cindy. Rita's an amazing lady and is committed to getting some skateparks built for Memphis. The week after we met, she showed us around at some potential sites in North Memphis. The consensus was that we would like to have the park at Bickford, a City managed park across the street from Caudell Elementary in an area just North of Downtown. I really liked the spot because it would be accessible to inner-city kids and it could used as an afterschool program that could be run by the Bickford Community center. What a great gift to a community that has been suffering from economic decline and neglect for decades ! Thankfully there is an organization called Oasis of Hope that runs afterschool programs for Caudwell elementary students. Oasis of Hope is an affiliate of Hope Presbysterian. Cindy has been equally enthusiastic about the prospects.
The only real issue is that the Parks and Recreation department has become marginalized when it come to funding projects.
It will be a beautiful day when we wake up and find a local government that promotes and truly values their parks and recreation department. For now that's not the case so we may need to raise funds. However, the good news is that our parks and rec department has the vision and enthusiasm and is willing to work with us by providing land for the skateparks.
This is an unfinished chapter and we will continue to revisit it as things unfold.

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