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(Many Paths)
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New Tulalip Skate Park Named After Woman Who Pushed Tribe To Build It
by Kirk Boxleiter - Marysville Globe Reporter
Tulalip youths test out the Debra Barto Memorial Skate Park after the rain has cleared off Feb. 19. (Image Credit: Kirk Boxleitner)

TULALIP — Debra Barto’s son, Shane McLean, said his mom weathered the trauma of growing up on the Tulalip Reservation before Native American heritage was as accepted as it is now.

"Like skateboarding, you get hurt and fall down, but she got up and kept on riding," Shane said at the dedication of the new $400,000 skate park in her honor Feb. 19. "She was all about uplifting our people. We're all one family, connected in a spiritual way, and we can heal each other."

Barto didn't live to see the dedication but her fellow tribal members ensured that it would bear her name for her years of efforts to bring it about. She died of breast cancer last June.

Board member Theresa Sheldon deemed Barto's inclusivity toward skateboarding as but one of many signs of her kindness and compassion.

"She wanted us to love and value each other as Native Americans," said Sheldon, who touted the worth of the skate park to the tribe's youth, "our true leaders going forward."

Board member Bonnie Juneau touted the skate park as an outlet for young people on the reservation who are into non-traditional athletics, so that they don't have to go all the way to Marysville’s skatepark.

"Not everyone is good at basketball or football," Juneau said. "And this way, our kids can skateboard without riding the bus or needing us to come pick them up."

Shane and tribal artists James Madison and Ty Juvenal pledged the skate park would bear signs of who Barto was, including the bumblebee, whose non-aerodynamic way of flying inspired her.

Juvenal, himself a skateboarder, recalls efforts to implement a skate park on reservation lands dating back at least a decade, back when he was still in high school.

"We've got a lot of skateboarders in Tulalip," Juvenal said. "We needed more avenues for recreation. By offering a more divergent range, we can see their talents blossom. Even the decorations will involve tribal youth's ideas."

Tribal board treasurer Les Parks credited Barto and fellow board member Herman Williams Sr. with motivating the board in funding the skate park in 2014.

"We can spend years procrastinating and talking issues to death," Parks said. "But they really held our feet to the fire and pushed us to stand up for youth."

"I just told him, 'Get it done,'" said Williams, who praised Parks for pushing the measure through. He recalled when the area of the skate park, gym and playfields were all cow pastures.

Parks noted that he's been able to watch Shane grow up. He agreed with tribal board secretary Marie Zackuse that Barto was thinking not just of her own kids, but of all the Tulalip youth who are active skateboarders.

At the dedication, tribal board members were joined by Barto's family, including her six children, at the Don Hatch Gymnasium at 6700 Totem Beach Road. The skate park's more than 10,000 square feet allowed for a variety of skating elements to be installed in one structure.

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