Village youth in the Kuskokim village of Kwethluk will soon have a chance to do something few of them have done before: skateboard. Construction of a new skatepark there will begin next month. The park is the first of it’s kind in the YK Delta.
That wasn’t an Alaska Airlines jet flying over, that’s the sound of an expertly executed skateboard stop at the Bethel Skatepark. It’s a sound not yet familiar in the village, but that’s about to change in the community of Kwethluk, about 20 miles upriver from Bethel. Construction materials are now being gathered at a Seattle, Wash. barge company. The funding comes from a grant provided by Indian Health Services for Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s Diabetes Prevention Program. Kwethluk, in cooperation with YKHC, hired a company suited for such construction called Native Skateparks. The company owner, Greg Mize, shares his experiences with formerly concerned parent before and after the grand opening ceremonies.
“Adults who said, ‘oh they’ll break their heads’ or ‘oh we need to do this instead,’ and they’ll drive by and see thirty, forty, fifty kids there. And I’d be standing there and grown men who came up to me and were kind of angry, come up to me later and say ‘you know what, buddy, I apologize, this is the greatest thing that happened to our kids,’ ” says Mize.
The project partners give the community youth an avenue to actively combat obesity, give kids something to strive for and help kids avoid negative activities. YKHC Office of Environmental Health pitched the idea to many villages as part of their Diabetes Prevention Program. Buth they say only Kwethluk was interested. According to YKHC, another reason Kwethluk is a good choice was its close proximity to other villages, like Akiak and Akiachak.
The skatepark, or “skate dot,” a term used to describe smaller skateparks; will be 30 feet wide and 50 feet long. The rectangular “skate dot” will sport quarterpipes on both ends crossed by a row of ramps and rails cutting through the center.
With all these fun features Kwethluk City Clerk Ana Galila says there’s a staff member at YKHC Environmental Health with extensive skating expeirnce who’s promised another surprise for the youth there. “Brian Berube is gonna give lessons and they’re gonna handout skateboards and safety helmets,” says Galila.
Mize says construction supplies for the Kwethluk skate dot should land there on or around July 7. Then, after a couple of weeks, construction should begin… “Then twenty days later you should have a skatepark. We’re just going there to work, because we don’t goof around,” says Mize.
A privilege he hopes kids in Kwethluk will enjoy, as long as they wear safety gear, one of many new safety ordinances already implemented by village officials.