My name is Kristie Nerby and I am the Project Coordinator for The Skate Ignatius Project. We are a grassroots, all-volunteer group, working to build a skatepark in the Town of St. Ignatius, population 800. Our town is located 40 miles north of Missoula on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The Skate Ignatius Skatepark is being built in 2 phases, with Phase I having been completed last summer. We have a big fundraising push ahead of us to complete Phase II, but we are undaunted, as we know that the Missoula Skatepark Association has our back.
Our project was born of tragedy when, in quick succession, we lost 4 young men to alcohol abuse. Living on the reservation you see much tragedy, but these deaths were particularly disturbing, as the decedents were so young, and the deaths so close together. Having a young son myself, I worried that this epidemic of drug and alcohol abuse on the reservation would claim him and his friends as victims if we didn’t take action to provide healthier recreational choices.
My son and his friends live to skate. It is truly the one thing that they love to do. Living in rural Montana, the absence of skate-able surfaces made it impossible for them to enjoy their chosen sport. That is why we decided to build a skate park. Of course I knew nothing of skateboarding, skateparks or skate culture. I knew I really needed competent assistance from people who knew their stuff. That is when The Missoula Skatepark Association (MSA) came forward to champion our cause.
We had called Chris Bacon, president of MSA, to solicit a donation for a fundraiser. He was interested to hear about our project and told us that MSA had recently completed their MOBASH Skatepark in Missoula and decided to broaden the scope of their mission from Missoula to the entire state of Montana, assisting other communities in building their skate parks. The MSA took a look at what we had achieved so far in terms of proving public support, securing a site and tackling the menacing insurance issue. They could see that we were well organized and very serious about achieving our goal, and they chose our community as the first one to assist. The MSA brought many assets to the table including 6 years of fundraising experience, political savvy and an invaluable grasp of the skate culture both locally and globally.
It was the MSA who coined the phrase “Skate Ignatius”, which we adopted as our moniker. They assisted us in choosing a contractor, designing the park, and building our web site. It was MSA that came up with the idea to build our park in 2 phases so that we could have a really tangible short-term goal, and get the kids skating as soon as possible. This worked beautifully for us as we were able to fundraise and construct Phase I in just under I year. They also assisted in the less tangible aspects, such as working through the political red tape of a huge project like this, creating and sustaining “buzz” about our project in the skate community, and lent much needed moral support. MSA’s stellar reputation gave our project credibility and respectability. I am certain that without their assistance our kids would not be skating in St. Ignatius today.
The Missoula Skatepark Association, with its excellent record of integrity, hard working group of committed volunteers and overall heightened sense of social consciousness, has elevated the sport of skateboarding in the state of Montana to a level where even small communities like ours can make their dreams come true. We will always be forever grateful to them.
Kristie Nerby, project coordinator
The Skate Ignatius Project