By April Clark Honaker
Through a grassroots effort that started over five years ago, Friends of Ruston Skatepark are nearing their initial fundraising goal for a project that will transform the abandoned city pool at Memorial Park in Ruston.
When the nonprofit reaches their goal of $250,000, the City of Ruston will break ground on what is slated to become a skatepark that will nurture beginning and advanced skaters, giving them a safe place to practice their sport. In addition, future phases of development will include walking paths, restrooms, shade structures, and public art, including murals and sculptures.
Those supporting the skatepark have a vision to convert the eyesore that is currently the abandoned pool into a community park that is welcoming to skaters and nonskaters alike.
“We want to turn the whole area into a really great place to explore,” said Executive Director Joey Slaughter.
The cause is close to Slaughter’s heart. In addition to serving Friends of Ruston Skatepark, Slaughter is an associate professor of art in the School of Design at Louisiana Tech and said he discovered art and also music through skating.
“Skating is cheap and creative,” he said, “with ties to art and music.”
Slaughter imagines the park as a place for children of any demographic or background to have their creativity supported and to have an opportunity to engage in a sport. He envisions skateboarding as an alternative to some of the popular, structured sports in our area, such as baseball, football, and soccer.
Skateboarding is also special in that kids can skate independently or with friends. They don’t need a team to enjoy it, and there are even competitions for those who are competitively minded. In fact, skateboarding is an Olympic sport.
When finished, Ruston Skatepark will be maintained by Ruston Parks and Recreation (RPAR), admission will be free, and it will be open sunrise to sunset, making it accessible to everyone.
In the process of raising funds for the park, Joey said, “We’ve realized we need to get community support and destigmatize skating.”
Through Skate Jams and other fundraising efforts, Friends of Ruston Skatepark have made significant strides in cultivating a positive attitude toward skateboarding and skater culture. Their events have attracted people from as far away as Houma, Louisiana.
According to Program Manager Jessica Slaughter, some of the more experienced skaters often help the less experienced ones at the Skate Jams.
“It’s a beautiful thing to watch and a beautiful thing to be a part of,” Jessica Slaughter said. “People will say, ‘This is not what I expected.’”
It means that for those who bought into the stigma, views are changing.
The Slaughters said the organization has raised approximately $228,000 toward their $250,000 goal with hopes of reaching it by November.
“We’re still fundraising,” Jessica Slaughter said. “We’re trying to close that last little gap, so we can break ground, and we’re looking for people who want to make an impact on the kids in our area.”
According to the Slaughters, there are plans in place to recognize donors, and those interested in supporting the project are encouraged to visit rustonskatepark.com to learn more, inquire or donate.