By Olivia Nieto
Finding both community and friendship within the work toward progress is a difficult feat, yet it is one that the Sisters Skatepark Alliance managed to embed within the skatepark expansion project in their hometown of Sisters, Oregon.
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 this small central Oregon community for over a decade, and 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, teacher of 17 years and 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,” states 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 lead teacher, Mr. 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 confides, “…so we held a meeting, and The Roundhouse Foundation provided us with our first $10,000 grant.”
O’Neill disclosed that the money was only one of the contributions 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 with their fundraising efforts. 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 this strenuous endeavor.
“Most of the work happened after school, on weekends and eventually all throughout the summer,” states 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 towards the finished product, and many took away important life skills.
“Building your own skatepark is a really cool experience,” says 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,” says Mr. O’Neill.
The project took a total of one and a half years to complete with many helping hands, but will never be completely ‘done,’ and will instead be a park of continual progression and play. O’Neill is hoping to develop a class this year at Sisters High School dedicated to the act of 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.
Skateboarding united so many people with one common goal to accomplish a spectacular achievement. The mentality of giving help where it is needed, working to improve the Sisters community, and overcoming obstacles, continues to generate enhanced outcomes for both kids and adults alike.
“I like skateboarding because everyone can enjoy it,” says Miles. “It brings people together in a way nothing else does.”
Olivia Nieto is a freshman at Sisters High School. She recently became a freelance writer and has been composing articles for the local Nugget Newspaper. Olivia enjoys playing saxophone in High School band, and running Cross Country.