Phillips County News - One Nation, Under God

By Mark Hebert

Skatepark for Malta

Collaborative effort by handful of locals, and donation from righteous rocker, make new skatepark in Malta a reality


April 20, 2016

Mark Hebert

CHECKING OUT THE GROUNDS...Keith Powers and Bill Coulon of Evergreen Skateparks scout the site at Hill Crest Park where a skate board park will be built in Malta with Ashley Stuart, Travis Rhoads and Malta Public Work's Director Jim Truelove. (Noot the Dog checks out the cameraman.)

Like a runaway skateboarder flying down Ruby Ave, the news of Malta's planned skatepark has been fast and furious since going before the Malta City Council last Tuesday.

At that meeting, Ashley Stuart, Travis Rhoads, Shane Carnahan and Laura Pankratz – all from different organizations, but all with the same thing on their minds – pled their case to the council members on the virtues of a skatepark. The council heard that Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament would be donating $50,000, free of charge, to build a skatepark in Malta and that if things fell into place, construction would start on Monday. The lone caveat to get the deal done was that the park needed to be approved Tuesday night so that construction could start ASAP and ensure the donation wouldn't go to a different town or city.

The council listened to conversations on how many people had already stepped up to help the project along – from providing free signage for the park to a radio-thon to add to the construction funds and from maintenance after construction and insuring the park – and after about 20-minustes, the council approved the park to be constructed in Hill Crest Park at the base of the Hill Crest Subdivision.

Two days later, Evergreen Skatepark' (the firm who works with Ament on building skateparks) proprietor Bill Coulon came to Malta to look at where the concrete-park would be built.

"I've been here for about 15 or 20 minutes and I think it is a great job-site," said Coulon. "I'm ready to get to work."

About three hours after Coulon walked through Hill Crest he called Stuart back, let her know he had talked to Ament and told her the $50,000 donation for Malta had turned into $100,000, doubling the size of the park from 1,900 square feet to 4,000 square feet.

"I was completely shocked," Stuart, PhillCo's Executive Director, said. "It is amazing and we are more than excited. It is such a wonderful thing that Jeff is doing and it is going to be wonderful for this community.

Evergreen had intended to start their next Montana skatepark in Hays last week – to the tune of $100k -- but it was decided by Tribal leaders to put the project on hold while more cultural research could be done of the proposed site. Hays' temporary loss is now Malta's gain. The tentative plan for Malta's skatepark was to place it in one of the three parks in town with groundbreaking to start after the Hays project, sometime in May. Coulon talked with the powers in Hays and it was decided that the Hays project would be postponed and all the funds would go to Malta. Evergreen is set to start construction this week and will most likely have the project completed before June.

"Most small towns have basketball or football teams at their high school and there is that outlet," Ament said in the 2012 Vans Off the Wall documentary Pass the Bucket. "But there is a whole different group of kids, typically, that are interested in things more artistic and music and skateboarding are all programs that have been cut a lot more in the last 10 years. Every kid is different and you can't shove every kid into a round hole because a lot of the kids are triangle shaped and square shaped and skateboarding, I think, is for a lot of the triangle shaped and square shaped kids."

Rhoads agreed with Ament's thoughts, both for himself when in high school and for a large section of today's county youths.

"Not every kid grows up to be 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds and able to play football," he said. "There are a lot of kids in this community into different types of sports and skateboarding is one of them."

"This gives a kid a chance to try something else," added Carnahan. "

Ament – who grew up in Big Sandy, Mont. -- and Pearl Jam have sold over 30 million albums worldwide over the last 30 years. Ament is also an ardent skateboarder who has donated monies for more than 10 skateparks in the United States, at least four of them in Montana including a world-class facility in Browning built in 2014 that cost nearly $250,000 to build. Part of the money from the parks comes from $2 of every Pearl Jam concert ticket that goes toward community projects decided upon by the band.

One of the first concerns Malta Mayor Shyla Jones faced was the insurance on the skatepark. She contacted the company who provides insurance for the rest of the city and was told as long as the new facility is installed at one of Malta's existing parks, the insurance can have an addendum applied to it – with a few stipulations – for coverage.

The next obstacle was finding an existing park that would work for the project. Both Trafton and Prellwitz Parks are in the floodplain making it impossible to get flood-permits back in time to build. Riverview wasn't chosen for the skate park the City decided the park wasn't large enough due to the newly installed sprinklers and trees planted as well as the plans for Malta Trails expansion.

"That pretty much left Hill Crest Park," Mayor Jones said. "Parks and Rec is also working to perhaps put in a BMX track where the old (ice) skating rink is, so they would be close together."

Another stipulation is the skatepark must go through Malta Trails, Inc. to get the park built. From there, Malta Trails would then turn the skatepark over to the City of Malta and the city would be in charge of it as far as maintenance. Pankratz met with the board of Malta Trails, Inc., during their annual meeting, right before the council meeting and they approved the joint merger.

The park will be made of concrete and the City Council voted in favor, four votes to nil, in favor. A radio-thon is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, April 27 from 7 p.m. to 10 a.m.


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