A Skatepark For Native Americans, A Skatepark For Everyone

Posted: May 6, 2009

Tony Hawk Foundation helps fund skatepark to bridge communities.

The Tony Hawk Foundation Board of Directors has announced its Spring 2009 skatepark grant awards. Twice annually the foundation’s Board selects skatepark projects that best match several criteria—applicants’ skateparks must be located in low-income communities, involve the skaters in all aspects of skatepark development (from negotiating with local leaders, to fundraising, to helping design the skatepark), and be designed and built by experienced skatepark specialists. Twenty-two projects were selected for grant awards from 73 applicants, receiving a total of $175,000 to assist in the construction of their free public skateparks.

Pawhuska, Oklahoma earned the top grant award of $25,000 for its skatepark that will draw visitors from the local Osage Nation Native American and other non-Native communities. In 2007, local skaters formed the Make It Happen In Pawhuska committee to promote the skatepark concept. Endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, they convinced other area business and nonprofit groups, the City of Pawhuska, and the Osage Nation leadership to join them and to combine resources to build a quality, durable public skatepark. “The community could see the need to provide a safe environment for a sport that’s growing in popularity,” says Cindy Helmer, Chairman of Make It Happen In Pawhuska (MHP). “It’s clearly a sport that includes any and all youth—regardless of size, age, color, or academic ability.”

“In this area of Oklahoma, there are several small towns without many amenities,” says Greg Mize, an Osage/Quapaw Native and skatepark builder who’s been working with MHP to make the skatepark a regional attraction. “Kids from many miles around will come—Indian and non-Indian alike—flocking to Pawhuska to skate.”

As the capital of the Osage Nation, Pawhuska serves as a hub for a number of smaller communities throughout the region. “There are many nationalities in Osage County, including many Native tribes as well as other nationalities,” says Helmer. “This skatepark will bring the opportunity for all ethnic backgrounds to come together. Friendships will grow and barriers will disappear.”

Since 2002 the Tony Hawk Foundation has been working with communities across the U.S. to assist in their pursuit of safe, quality public skateparks. Pawhuska is the fifteenth Tony Hawk Foundation Skatepark Grant recipient to serve Native American communities. “Skating provides a stimulus for young kids,” says Mize. “It challenges them, gives them something to aspire to, and gives them the ambition to learn and land a trick—these things are nonexistent in most rural Native American settings.”

Helmer says the Tony Hawk Foundation grant has convinced local leaders that the skaters’ vision of a custom concrete skatepark was worth committing to: “The donation from the Tony Hawk Foundation will allow this committee to build a first-class skatepark, versus the original modular skatepark that the City of Pawhuska was pursuing. The ‘Tony Hawk’ stamp on the project also raises the level of excitement and enthusiasm from youth and parents alike.”

With the success of the Pawhuska project, Mize has reached out to Tribal leaders across Oklahoma, Colorado, and Florida to help them start similar skatepark projects. “The idea is to get concrete venues at many tribal locations and begin to arrange regional competitions,” he says. “These would culminate at a ‘Nationals’ held at the All Nations Skate Jam in Albuquerque [New Mexico].”

The MHP example, he believes, will inspire other Native American communities make it happen for themselves, too.

Spring 2009 Tony Hawk Foundation Skatepark Grants were awarded to the following organizations:


  • Pawhuska, Oklahoma (Pawhuska Community Foundation)


  • Kapa’au,Hawaii (Roots Advocates for Youth)
  • Chicago, Illinois (Enlace Chicago)
  • Portland, Maine (City of Portland Maine)
  • Batesville, Mississippi (Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi)
  • Celina, Ohio (City of Celina)
  • Lockhart, Texas (Skate Park of San Marcos)
  • Sinton, Texas (City of Sinton)
  • Shelton, Washington (Squaxin Island Tribe)
  • Parkersburg, West Virginia (City of Parkersburg)


  • Nome, Alaska (Nome Community Center, Inc.)
  • Brazil, Indiana (Clay Community Parks Association, Inc.)
  • Frenchburg, Kentucky (Menifee County Fiscal Court)
  • Federalsburg, Maryland (Town of Federalsburg)
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota (Urban Ventures Leadership Foundation)
  • Sebeka, Minnesota (City of Sebeka)
  • Bucyrus, Ohio (The Bucyrus Area Community Foundation)
  • Colerain Township, Ohio (Colerain Township, Ohio)
  • Marietta, Ohio (City of Marietta)
  • Sallisaw, Oklahoma (City of Sallisaw)
  • Eugene, Oregon (Skaters For Public Skateparks)
  • Port Orchard, Washington (Port Orchard Rotary Foundation)

Public Skatepark Development Guide

Public Skatepark Development Guide
Second Edition Released!

The Public Skatepark Development Guide, the indispensable handbook for public-skatepark advocates, is now available in an updated and improved second edition. First published in 2007 by the Tony Hawk Foundation, Skaters For Public Skateparks, and the International Association of Skateboard Companies, the ultimate guide for community-skatepark advocates was available for free, and supplies quickly disappeared. The new 128-page second edition features updated information and expanded chapters, including skatepark vision, advocacy, fundraising, design, and management, plus several supplements and visual aids.

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