Skaters build community
Last updated 2/7/2023 at Noon
Finding community and friendship in work is a difficult feat, but the Sisters Skate Alliance managed to embed that outcome within the skatepark expansion project in their hometown of Sisters.
The recent construction that the local park underwent over the past year is both extensive and impressive.
The skatepark itself has been a part of the Sisters community for over a decade. It is a place for excitement, growth, and support. Over the past 13 years, many changes have been made, the most recent of which began in the spring of 2022 and were completed in fall of 2023. The additions include a new entrance, half-pipe, and many other small features.
Daniel O’Neill, a math teacher of 17 years and lifelong skateboarder, describes the project as “a way of allowing kids to realize that they can be powerful contributors to their community.”
The development started with a decision to improve the skating culture in and around the Sisters skatepark.
“After 5 or 6 years (of its initial construction) the culture started to change,” said O’Neill. “People didn’t even know it was a volunteer skatepark, and people started treating it like any other skatepark that you would find in any other town that wasn’t built with passion and love.”
The Sisters Skatepark Alliance, which is comprised of a few senior skateboarders and O’Neill, from Sisters High School, acknowledged this shift, and decided that there was only one way to fix it.
“We had to get the kids involved… a bunch of 30-, 40-, and 50-year-olds weren’t going to fix this problem,” he said. “So we held a meeting and The Roundhouse Foundation provided us with our first $10,000 grant.”
O’Neill noted that the money was only one of the impacts that The Roundhouse Foundation had on the production.
“They paved the way, making connections… the guidance, support, and enthusiasm that Executive Director Erin Borla and The Roundhouse Foundation program gave was more important than any other financial contribution,” he said.
The ambitious group of young skateboarders raised $50,000. These funds were used for the materials and equipment needed for the project. Most of the labor was completed by volunteers, many of whom were skateboarders themselves, who willingly contributed a great deal of time and energy into the strenuous endeavor.
“Most of the work happened after school, on weekends, and eventually all throughout the summer,” said O’Neill. “And it is hard work; it is hard work for grown men, so it is just brutal on the kids.”
Despite this obstacle, every skateboarder who volunteered did end up helping to contribute toward the finished product, and many took away important life skills.
“Building your own skatepark is a really cool experience,” said Sisters High School junior Miles O’Neill. “It taught me hard work, discipline, and how to think creatively to solve problems.”
“All over the skateboard world, people have heard about what we’re doing…people came from all over to skate and see what it is like. Not only from Oregon, but from Southern California too. And they know it is different because it is built by kids,” said Daniel O’Neill.
The project took a year and a half to complete, with many helping hands. It will never be completely “done.”
O’Neill is hoping to develop a class this year at Sisters High School dedicated to skateboarding, with an aspiration of gaining volunteers for an after-school program.
“I think when all the kids who want to be part of skateboarding again get to skate every day, it will help some of the kids who didn’t end up committing to the construction part get out there on the weekends and after school to help out again,” said O’Neill.
“I like skateboarding because everyone can enjoy it,” says Miles. “It brings people together in a way nothing else does.”