By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY December 9, 2005 In the skateboarding world, it doesnt get much better.
Arguably the most famous skateboarder of them all, whose moniker adorns games and whose face has launched a campaign for McDonalds, Tony Hawk is the sports world champion.
And hes putting his stamp of approval on plans to build a skatepark in Liberty.
Hawks foundation, established in 2002 with Hawks own money, has awarded more than $1 million to worthy causes around the skateboarding world.
The latest decision by the foundation board put $125,000 in the hands of skatepark planners in 13 communities.
For Liberty, the cut was $5,000.
According to the foundation Web Site, the focus is on working with local officials and grassroots, community-based organizations that plan to hire designers and contractors with strong experience designing and building skateparks.
Executive Director Miki Vuckovich said the goal is to have a skatepark that will really fit the needs of the skateboarders.
Hes seen many communities put a lot of planning into skateparks only to cut corners in the end.
They end up with something that the kids dont really want it, and dont use, and its just a waste, he said.
You really want all their efforts to go into something they can be proud of and use.
The Liberty project application showed a clear vision for building a park that will serve the community, he said, a good quality skatepark.
Vuckovich also said the board traditionally favors applicants who plan to build a park in a low-income area where at-risk youth will be served.
A grassroots community involvement in the project is also high on their list something Liberty proved easily.
The park is actually the idea of local kids who have long voiced the typical teenage lament theres nothing to do.
But the kids of TeamSkate, the youth development side of the Liberty Community Development Corporation (CDC), did something about it.
And according to Town of Liberty Supervisor Frank DeMayo, the grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation brings the kids to the magic number of $25,000 they needed to earn a matching grant from the Gerry Foundation.
The remainder of the money was raised by the kids through events like the popular Battle of the Bands, a second helping of which was offered up last month at the Liberty Elementary School.
Thats another one of the stipulations of the foundation a significant amount of funds should be raised by the skaters themselves.
And its why DeMayo is devoted to the cause even with questions of security and liability that he says plague any plans that involve children.
These kids have really, really worked their butts off, DeMayo said.
Heinrich Strauch, executive director of the Liberty CDC, said that between the $20,000 raised, the $5,000 from the Tony Hawk Foundations grant program and the $25,000 match from the Gerry Foundation, theres $50,000 in our war chest.
Now its time to look for a location to site the park, and hopefully, by spring, construction can begin on the concrete pad where the park equipment will be placed.
This park will be made of modular pieces, with more ramps added as finances permit.
Its not going to be one of those huge concrete bowls [people are familiar with], Strauch noted.
The grant from Hawks foundation did come with suggestions from Hawk himself, plus his autograph for the kids to hang up when their park is finally complete.
Still researching other parks around the country, the CDC is positive that will happen soon.
Well make it work . . . these kids have worked hard enough to make this happen, DeMayo said.