youths test out the Debra Barto Memorial Skate Park after
the rain has cleared off Feb. 19. (Image Credit: Kirk Boxleitner)
TULALIP Debra Bartos 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 Marysvilles
"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
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