On a sunny Saturday in Petal, Mississippi, a group of people from six to thirty-six all gather in one place, all centered around one thing: skateboarding.
36-year-old Frank Henn says that’s an activity that needs a place a little closer to home – and maybe, here in Fondren.
His group, Skate Mississippi, is pushing to find a place to build a public concrete skate park in Jackson. The movement, currently working toward non-profit status, says the activity brings a diverse bunch of kids (and adults) together and helps them to see life from a different side.
The Fondren resident knows first hand that side of life, having started boarding twenty years ago as a 4th grader in Pennsylvania. He says when he moved to Jackson in 1991, a small group would skate ‘anywhere and everywhere’, trying new tricks and getting in trouble along the way. “We’ve been run off everywhere we go,” Henn says “and it’s time we had a place to call our own.”
Currently, there are two large-scale, concrete skate parks in Mississippi, Petal and Oxford, the former of which was built on leftover Gulf Opportunity Zone bond money. “All we need is a piece of land,” Henn says, “and there are grants out there to cover projects of this nature.”
Fondren residents have opened their ears to the possibility of such a project, and neighborhood support has been ‘mind-blowing.’ “We collected 400 signatures in three hours during Fondren Unwrapped,” he says, “with people wanting to know about skate parks and how to support us.”
Henn asks you to contact community leaders and write letters to let them know of the need. He also suggests mobilizing the skate community of the area to allow them to take ownership of the project. This way, he says, they will take care of it, and learn how their actions help make the community a better place.
Keep up with the movement, and the project to bring a skate park to Jackson, by visiting SkateMS.com.
Originally published December 2010, Henn has since poured a skate “bowl” in his Fondren backyard and taken the lead to build a DIY skatepark off Mill Street in downtown Jackson. SkateMS is now a non-profit organization.