Skate park set to open in northern Manitoba First Nation this summer

High school student Heston Parisien holds the skateboard he made in art class. (Submitted by Angela Levasseur - image credit)
High school student Heston Parisien holds the skateboard he made in art class. (Submitted by Angela Levasseur - image credit)

Youth in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation will have another reason to get outside this summer. Construction of an approximately 7,000-square-foot skate park is expected to be finished by the beginning of August.

Heston Parisien, 16, travelled just over an hour to Thompson's skate park to try tricks on his skateboard and bike. Now that his community is getting one of its own, he said he's excited to have a skate park where he lives.

"Now that I found out a new one's coming, it made me feel better," he said.

Assistant director of education Nicholas Campbell said he and his colleagues wanted to give youth an alternative form of recreation and came up with the idea last August. He said funding to build the outdoor skate park was approved last week — through Indigenous Services Canada and Jordan's Principle — and the northern First Nation is in the process of finalizing where in the community it will be built.

"There's a lot of youth who want to be engaged in something. We kind of thought ... a skate park speaks to a lot of different youth," Campbell said.

Nisichawayasihk already has a hockey arena and 3 gymnasiums, but Campbell said not everyone was interested in using them. He said a skate park would cover many other interests in the community of around 3,400 — along with skateboards, people can use their rollerblades, bicycles and scooters.

"We started showing kids the blueprints ... everyone was really receptive," Campbell said.

Submitted by Nicholas Campbell
Submitted by Nicholas Campbell

Samantha Pike, principal of Nisichawayasihk Neyo Ohtinwak Collegiate, said there's a project at the school where students build and paint their own skateboards. With the news of the skate park opening, she said they're excited to be able to put them to use.

"Having those skateboards as projects that they can now use in the skate park ... some of them are really excited for that," she said.

"They actually have something that they're making the board for now, as opposed to just making it for themselves as an art project."

Pike said the skate park will be another way for the community to come together, but especially youth. She said being able to use the park for more than skateboarding will make it an inclusive space.

"It's really important to have inclusive spaces for everybody, especially for youth to come together," she said.

Pike said she's most looking forward to seeing the Cree nation's youth enjoy the new park, and hopes they feel empowered as they use it.

"The youth deserve so much in this community. They are awesome. I think just seeing them being able to go there to utilize that space and to make the most of it for themselves, I'm really excited for them," said Pike.

Submitted by Nicholas Campbell
Submitted by Nicholas Campbell

Parisien, who built his skateboard at school and also builds bikes in his spare time, said the process of creating his own board was a boost to his self-esteem. He said the process of shaping the board was the most interesting.

"When I first started I felt like I couldn't. But I just kept going and managed to do it, because you can do whatever you put your mind to," he said.

Parisien said he's most excited to be able to learn how to do tricks on his skateboard and bike, and pass on his knowledge to his siblings and other youth.

"I just wanna be able to do tricks and teach other kids how to do them ... I'm going to be teaching myself," he said.

The skate park, built by Drop In Skateparks, is expected to be finished by August 10. Campbell said surveys are being done in 3 potential locations, which the First Nation will vote on next week.