P.O. BOX 1094 / ST. HELENS, OR 97051

City, State, Zip

“I personally have been hit by a car twice while I was skateboarding and the second time was in a crosswalk. I skate in the street because there is no where else to go.”
--Donavan R., freshman, St. Helens High School, May 1998

Dear -------------,

Teen-agers in Columbia County suffer from a lack of places where they can socialize and recreate, and consequently have initiated a community effort to build a skatepark at a cost of $200,000.  We are writing to your corporation to request a donation for materials and labor needed to complete the project.

Historically, local business owners and the police have objected to various locations where the youth have congregated.  When a group of teenagers approached the St. Helens City Council earlier this year about the need, the mayor shared that the same problem existed when he was a teenager.  Research demonstrates that positive youth activities that provide structure during after school hours and attachment to community are critical for reducing high school dropout rates, teen pregnancy, drug use and juvenile crime.

In Columbia County, skateboarders, bicyclists and in-line skaters resort to competing with cars and pedestrians, creating hazards in private business areas and public rights-of-way where the activities are prohibited.  In February of this year, a broad base of community members agreed to help the skateboarders by providing leadership, funding, expertise, and energy to complete the skatepark project by June 1999.

The skatepark would provide a positive youth activity that builds attachment to the community.  It would provide a safe terrain for the many people, particularly teenagers, who enjoy skateboarding, BMX bicycling, and in-line skating.  By leading the project, the teens are building their leadership skills and ownership in the project.  The project structure provides a genuine example of synergy-building collaboration, which is the primary goal of Columbia Foundation.  It also will increase the community’s awareness that it truly takes a village to raise a child, and that Columbia County is rural and personal enough to provide each child with the ability to make a difference---if the capacity exists. This project provides the community with an example of its capacity.

The skatepark would most immediately serve adolescents in Columbia County but would also draw skateboarders from other communities.  The students estimate that one-third of their peers skate and the number would double upon completion of the park.  A similar, but less elaborate, park at the east end of the Burnside Bridge in Portland has become internationally known, has attracted tournaments and related retail businesses.  The Burnside Park, similar to St. Helens’ skatepark, was built by skateboarders, is self-patrolled and has remained almost trouble-free since it opened in 1991.

The St. Helens City Council responded to the youth’s most recent request by agreeing to contribute land and a portion of an assistant planner’s time to spearhead the project, with the condition that the teens provide leadership.  The city Parks Department will maintain the park upon completion. St. Frederic Catholic Church volunteered to provide help to develop a place youth can own.  Columbia Foundation, a non-profit formed three years ago to collaborate with the city to build Columbia Center, a new home for the city library, was invited to participate.  The Greater St. Helens Park and Recreation District offered its expertise, and private citizens got involved.  While the city of St. Helens had previously dissuaded efforts to develop a skatepark, it elected to provide leadership this year, citing the success of the community-driven Columbia Center project.

The Skatepark Planning Committee includes:

•     Middle and High School age skateboarders and in-line skaters, many who have traveled to parks around the state and country.

•     An assistant city planner.

•     The education/youth director of the very active local Catholic Church.

•     A local sculptor who guided the park’s design.

•     The marketing/education director of Columbia Technology Center, operated by Columbia Foundation.

•     The director of the Greater St. Helens Park and Recreation District.

•     The executive director of Columbia Foundation.

Regarding the skateparks $200,000 budget:  A line-item budget showing expenses and income of this project is attached.  Generally, it shows that the project has a private donor who has challenged to match donations up to $5,000 that the students raise.  To date, the students have planned a Mother’s Day B-B-Q, a skate festival and clinic, a car wash, calendar and t-shirt sales, and distributed coin buckets.  The adults involved in the planning have pledged to raise $7,500, through fundraisers including a pizza party, hair coloring and head shaving.  The students successfully requested that the City of St. Helens provide a matching donation of up to $10,000 in park system development charges toward the community fund-raising.  The project planners also have raised $50,000 in in-kind donations to date and are pursuing further in-kind donations estimated to reach $31,000.  This plan leaves a gap of $15,000 for materials and for at least partially paying the professionals involved in construction.

Columbia Foundation, on behalf of Columbia County, sincerely invites your company  to join in this energetic, pro-active project, which is why we are appealing to you.  We hope you will share Columbia Foundation’s view that this project powerfully demonstrates the benefits of community collaborating to build leadership skills within our youth.  When organizations with the influence of the your company support lean, community-driven groups such as Columbia Foundation, the result is an enhanced sense of community pride and confidence that ultimately builds capacity.

Finally, I would welcome you to visit St. Helens to view the progress of the skatepark, and ideally to meet with the skateboarders as you consider this proposal.  In the mean time, if you have any questions of me, although I have never been on a skateboard, I can be reached at phone number.


Executive Director
Columbia Foundation