Beau Johnson recalls the drawbacks of skateboarding in Hamilton as a kid. A few curbs and a two-step were really all the town offered. Like most Bitterroot skaters, he trucked to Missoula for the good stuff.
But if the latest push for a Bitterroot skatepark succeeds, the next generation won't have to burn gas to reach a funbox or bowl. Hamilton and Ravalli County officials agreed Sept. 14 that the city is long overdue for such an asset. Now skaters are looking to the Montana Skatepark Association (MSA) to help make that plan a reality.
"We're super excited," says MSA President Chris Bacon. "We couldn't be more thrilled. The Bitterroot is an area we've felt needed a skatepark from the get-go."
Bacon heard of the recent initiative a few months back. He wasn't surprised; he's received a call a year for the past five years from someone in the Bitterroot. MSA offered the city guidance this summer on forming committees and drawing up designs. So far, that's where their involvement ends.
But with MSA honing its grant process, the group seems primed for an expanded role. Bacon says MSA will do what it can to locate funding sources for the Hamilton project, and suggests their past success with such initiatives bodes well for the Bitterroot.
"The MSA learned a lot when we started our process to build a park [in Missoula] 10 years ago, and so much has changed," Bacon says. "There are people to draw on now whereas when we started there wasn't. There was no 'us' before us."
Bacon adds the Hamilton project will probably resemble the park in Polson, which he says cost roughly $250,000.
Johnson–who's been involved with several past Hamilton skatepark initiatives–considers MSA the linchpin. Previous attempts failed not for lack of community support but because of insufficient funding.
"If we can get together a good enough plan and it seems like a worthwhile investment for the MSA, they'll kick down money," Johnson says. "And everyone will follow suit."