On May 11, 2002, the Richmond, Indiana Parks Department planned to have a Grand Opening for the skatepark in Glenn Miller Park.
As the primary liaison between the skaters, contractors and government on the project, I was scheduled to give a speech at the event just before the major spoke.
Well, I've been holding on to this speech for about four years, and there still hasn't been a grand opening. Heck, at the moment we don't even anyone leading the Parks Department.
Re-reading the piece now, I find it still interesting and relevant. You are welcome to use it as the basis of your own document, but please contact Ron Whitehead about re-using his poem that's included here.
Richmond, Indiana Skatepark Grand Opening Speech
by Mark Stosberg
to be delivered on May 11th, 2002
[ juggles lit torches while skating around the park. ]
I thought that might get your attention.
How many of you have been to another skatepark besides the Richmond skatepark?
How many of you have seen skateparks on TV recently, on ESPN's X-Games or another program?
How many of you have driven by this park since it opened and seen it empty when school was out and the weather was nice?
[ probably no hands go up. Laughter. Maybe. ]
Skateboarding saved my life. Organized, competitive sports in high school weren't my thing, but skateboarding fit me just right. I like the flow of skateboarding, the learn-on-your-own nature, and I spent a lot of evenings and weekends skating, not to mention hot, sticky summer days. Below freezing temperatures still didn't stop me. Skateboarding was a positive creative outlet for me. Without it, I'm not sure what else I would have gotten into. Drugs, depression?
I find this a little hard to explain, so I want to read you this poem about a similar transformation called "Music Saved my Life and Jesus Saved My Soul: The Impossible Dream". This is by Kentucky Poet Ron Whitehead.
We were a gospel quartet Brad Steve Stan and me Singing our hearts out "The Impossible Dream" Sunday morning service at the Centertown Baptist Church after the preachin and "Just As I Am" Page came up and smilin said "boys that sure was good" and she added laughing real loud "and Ronnie you are animated" and then Sandra Carl chimed in with "yes that was fine but Ronnie you were flat" and oh my oh my oh my I went home swearin I'd never sign again and I didn't until I got in the car turned on the radio and heard Elvis crooning bout some old Kentucky Backroads and I caught myself breaking my promise singin so what I was flat as a pancake music had saved my life more than once and I knew then as I knew before and after that that I'd never abandon song I'd never quit listening to the gift of god sweet music and even if I couldn't in public at least in private I"d keep on singing and well us boys Brad and Steve and Stan and me well I believe all of our lives were saved more than once and I mean every kind of music we heard it all church music and funeral dirges as Mama and her sister Jo Carolyn sang far back as I can remember I see people climbin on coffins including Pappy trying to keep Mammy from leavin him behind her lying there in the pine yes we heard gospel and blues and we heard country mixed with traditional folk mountain Appalachian goin back to Ireland and Scotland and Wales and we listened to Jimmie Rogers and Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie and Raymond Render and Mose Rager and The Montgomery Brothers and Matthew Tichenor's Gospel Quartet with Mrs Duncan banging on that piano like I'd never heard in no Baptist Church and I got excited Oh Lord can music make you feel this good? brought tears to my boy eyes and made goosebumps run all up and down my back and all over my body made my flat topped hair stand up straight and tall without no butch wax on it and then came Elvis and my parents said turn it off but they were glued too and didn't couldn't move eyes staring in disbelief but excited like what in the world is this and seemed like everybody felt that way more excited than ashamed wantin to be part of that energy that we all know somehow like music itself must be a gift from some greater source and we all mourned his passing but I'm jumping ahead cause for our generation Bob Dylan and The Beatles did it too and in Stan's yellow Volkswagon travelling through one lane Ohio County bridges at the speed of light with windows down we kept the stereo loud as it would go cause we loved music cause whenever we had to turn from the pain of life the suffering of living we always turned to music as if music redirected us toward God as if music came from God and everytime we turned to music life became bearable again we thought about Resurrection again we thought about Jesus again
Luckily for people like me there's been a boom in skateparks being built in recent years. I believe over 400 have been built in the US in the past three years, and over 100 more are known to be currently in progress. Skateparks are no longer considered a risk. They are known to be a positive, effective, valuable and relatively safe youth outlet.
The driving force behind skatepark projects comes from all directions. I just heard from a 12 year old skater in Florida named Mario. He had just called his Mayor to find out how to get a skatepark. He got referred to another department. While he waited for his City to respond, he started collecting hundreds of signatures on a petition. This youth-led project isn't a special case. A lot of skateparks projects are youth-led projects. Recently, In Columbus, Indiana some high school students were recognized by the Indiana Youth Institute for raising over $100,000 for their skatepark project.
But it's not just the skaters themselves that led and drive skatepark projects. In Wayne Nebraska, a small town of 5000 people, George Holm, a father of skateboarder and local businessman, is leading the charge for a skatepark there. He converted half of his dry cleaning business store space into a skate shop for the local skaters. George is tireless.
In Delaware, a Council woman contacted me because she is doing thorough research to assess the feasibility of skatepark in her town.
In Louisville, Kentucky, like Richmond, the city has provided the bulk of the funds for a skatepark. They've spent over $3 million dollars to build a world class park in our region.
In Los Angeles, Dennis Stecchi has announced the the LA School system is expanding their skateparks-at-schools programs to twenty one skateparks in their district. Twenty one. I believe if the program goes well, they could have up to seventy skateparks in their school system.
In Windham, Maine, Matt Cyr of the local Police Department has lead the charge for a skatepark for the youth of his community and is using his role to help neighboring communities.
In Hutchinson, Minnesota Brandon Anderson is leading one of the many faith-based skatepark programs I've heard off, building a skatepark through a church program.
Skate culture cross a lot of boundries. Many new skatepark projects are appearing around the world. Like the projects here, these projects are led passionate, dedicated individuals. There is:
- Leithan Slade in the United Kingdom
- Chris Freeman in New Zealand
- Bruce Rendall in Australia
- Gonzalo Romer in Venezuela
- Nathan Houck in South Africa
- Nicolas Machoud in Switzerland
- Kalopita Sofia in Greece
- Pavel Ciubotaru in Moldova
- Osinsh in Latvia
- Anar Mahmudov in Azerbaijan
Skateparks are everywhere and it's exciting. With all the things I see falling apart the world today, this gives me hope.
So who cares about skateparks? The skaters. The city officials. The moms and dads. Law enforcement officers. Church leaders. Local business owners. School leaders. They all do.
Skateparks serve their communities by providing a positive space for youth development, and people from all parts of the communities are supporting skateparks in return.
It's people like you that make skateparks successful.
[ Now this is where my speech gets interactive again. The next bit might go something like this. ]
Like you, sir, in the funny hat. And you, little skater dude. And you, ma'am, in the pink dress.
I want to see the Richmond skatepark continue to thrive so it change lives like my life was changed. And I want you know that's people like you, you and you that are building and sustaining skateparks around the country and world.
I invite you become a part of the future of the Richmond Skatepark. You can talk to me or David Meredith at the Parks Department to find out more about how you can get involved. I also have a website with loads of information about skatepark development: skatepark.org.