City, State, Zip

Dear ------:

Thank you for answering my initial questions about the -------------- Foundation.  As I reviewed the material you sent, it became clear that the Columbia Foundation’s skatepark project is not only our most immediate funding concern, but also seems compatible with your Foundation’s funding preferences.  On behalf of the broad-based and volunteer skatepark committee, we would enjoy the opportunity to make a request for the final $20,000 needed to complete this $200,000 project.

Teenagers in Columbia County suffer from a lack of places where they can socialize and recreate.  Historically, local business owners and police have objected to various locations where the youth have congregated.  When a group of teenagers approached the St. Helens city council just a year ago about the need for a safe place to skate, the mayor shared that youth in St. Helens struggled to find recreational activities when he was growing up.  That problem is being solved in St. Helens through the youth-initiated effort to build a tournament-caliber skatepark that will become part of the St. Helens municipal park system.

In Columbia County, skateboarders, bicyclists and rollerbladers resort to competing with cars and pedestrians, creating hazards in private business areas and public rights­-of-way where the activities are prohibited.  Research clearly 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.

Upon completion this June, the St. Helens skatepark will provide a positive activity that builds attachment to the community.  Even more, the year-long process of designing and building the skatepark has provided a learning opportunity for the youth involved as they designed the park obstacles and layout using clay, have spoken to all St. Helens service groups about the project, raised more than $5,000 from youth-organized events, and have been involved in the actual construction. This blending of individuals from all walks of life has offered many mentoring opportunities for the youth, who have made significant gains in the realms of public speaking and participation within the political process.

The youths invited Columbia Foundation, a non-profit formed four years ago to facilitate collaborative community projects, to participate.  Indeed, when interest emerged in 1994 to build a new home for the St. Helens Public Library and a community technology center, Columbia Foundation was formed in partnership with the city to be a catalyst in a community-driven $2 million capital campaign to build the Columbia Center.  That project was completed in May 1996 and the center has operated successfully because of the community’s broad participation.

Also involved in the project is the Columbia County Park and Recreation District, St. Frederic’s Catholic Church and private citizens.  Although the project revolves around many players, Columbia Foundation is capable of managing this funding request and the construction process.  The Foundation has an eight-member board of directors who bring diverse perspectives of leadership to develop the Foundation’s vision.  (A roster of directors and a brochure about the Foundation’s mission are attached.)

The skatepark would most immediately serve adolescents in Columbia County, but would draw skateboarders from around the U.S., and perhaps the world.  The local students estimate that one-third of their peers skate, a percentage that is sure to increase when the park opens.  The skatepark, designed to accommodate 115 youths at a time, features one eight-feet bowl, one six-feet bowl and a 50-by-100 feet street course. The caliber and diversity of the park cannot be found on the West Coast between Huntington Beach and British Columbia.  A similar, though less elaborate, park at the east end of the Burnside Bridge in Portland has become internationally known, has attracted tournaments, film makers and related retail businesses.  The Burnside Park also was built by skaters, is self ­patrolled and has remained almost trouble-free since it opened in 1991.

At this writing, the Skatepark Committee has received monetary and in-kind donations from dozens of businesses, civic groups and concerned individuals.  Although we have received $50,000 in monetary donations and $80,000 in material donations, we still have a substantial financial deficit to overcome.

Constructing the park began in the spring of 1998 with surveying and site preparation.  This has been a challenging construction effort because it has required a form building and support system designed specifically for skateparks.  The committee issued two requests for bids before finding a contractor who was willing to take the project on.  Consequently the site sat through most of the winter, suffered from erosion, required extra site preparation and incurred unexpected costs.

I am now very excited about the pace of construction.  With the combined efforts of our contractor, alternative high school students, a local sculptor and the skatepark committee youth, construction made great headway during spring break.  Concrete has been poured in both bowls!  The process worked just as it was engineered.  We have smooth, even concrete clear to the top of the eight-feet-high bowl.  We now need to turn our attention to the skate path around the bowls and then to the flat street course.

Unfortunately, we are quickly exhausting our funds.  We estimate we are $20,000-$30,000 short of finishing the skatepark.  The exact amount is difficult to estimate because we are paying the contractor by the hour, and finishing elements such as landscaping and spectator benches are not included in our $160,000 budget.  The skatepark committee has sent 500 letters to community members and business owners requesting a final pledge of support and reminding them that each yard of concrete costs $60.  We also are speaking with past supporters of Columbia Foundation.  And of course, we are writing to you. My concern is timing. We do not want to suspend construction and have the contractor move onto other jobs.  The kids are impatient as it is.  If you want to consider a grant “matching” these other fund-raising efforts, we would be receptive to that, provided we have time to get the word out.

If you could indicate your level of interest in this request quickly, it would be very helpful.  I am negotiating payment terms with the concrete company, and we are confident the city could provide an advance if it had assurances that donations would be forthcoming.  Being involved in this project has been an exciting experience, regarding both the physical product and the community process, particularly witnessing such growth in the kids involved, as well as the creative problem-solving required along the way.  We are so close to being finished, and we have the easiest portion left to build, so we are determined to see this to completion.  We need help.


Executive Director
Columbia Foundation