Darby Skatepark

Jack Balerud of Evergreen Skateparks works to build the concrete forms used to shape the bowl of a brand new skatepark in Darby while his dog keeps photographers at bay. Work started on the skatepark last week after a surprise announcement. "These kinds of things don't happen very often," Balerud said.

A new skatepark for the town of Darby was the last thing that was on Darby Mayor JC McDowell’s mind when he answered the telephone two weeks ago.

On the other end, a representative from Evergreen Skateparks told McDowell that a big project they were planning to build had just been delayed.

“He told me that if Darby could move pretty quickly, at the very least the company could renovate the existing skatepark,” McDowell said. “He told me they had private donors who would pay for everything.”

McDowell quickly reached out to members of the council. He found nothing but support for the idea.

“When we green-lighted it, there was $20,000 to work with,” McDowell said. “A second donor added another $100,000. I’m not really sure who they are. I didn’t ask too many questions about the donors. We were just happy this was happening.”

On Monday, Evergreen Skatepark’s owner Billy Coulon was moving dirt with a small backhoe as his orange-shirted crew busily worked to create the features that would become the Bitterroot Valley’s newest skatepark over the next month.

Coulon’s company has a branch office in Stevensville, where it built a Jeff Ament designed skatepark in 2015.

Darby’s skatepark will be the third project for which Pearl Jam’s bass player has offered financial and technical help. Last year, Ament donated $60,000 to the ongoing effort to build a skatepark in Hamilton.

Darby’s original skatepark was built years ago by folks who really didn’t understand that skateboards don’t do well navigating square corners.

“This place was definitely in need of an update,” Coulon said. “The last skatepark they had was lacking.”

The new concept will include a new bowl and a separate slab with a couple of hills.

“It was a concept that Jeff (Ament) came up with,” Coulon said. “There will be something here for all abilities. I think it’s going to work well.”

Work started on the project last week. Coulon expects that it will be completed in about a month.

“At this point, I’m not really sure when they are going to open it officially,” Coulon said.

The skatepark is located north of the Darby rodeo grounds just a stone’s throw from the new, $250,000 skybox project that was completed through volunteer labor and donations last year.

The new skatepark is also close to the renovated Quonset hut that gives the community a place to host all sorts of events. McDowell said that project was paid for through a combination of insurance money, donations and some matching funds from the town.

“When you start looking at what’s happened out there, it’s pretty impressive,” McDowell said. “If you want community involvement, you have to be ready to say yes…If people want to donate money to do good things for the community, you have to be ready to allow them to express their vision.”

The skatepark is just the latest in that plan to improve on what Darby has to offer its residents.

“It’s adding another quality of life measure to our community,” McDowell said. “It’s not impacting our current budget at all. I know my daughter is very excited. Darby doesn’t have a lot of areas covered in asphalt. It doesn’t have a lot of places where kids can get out on their skateboards.”

So far, not that many people in the community even know the project is up and going.

“It caught us between council meetings,” McDowell said. “We had consensus from the council, which allowed us to move forward. We will sign the contract tonight (Tuesday).

“It’s been a good year for us,” he said. “There have been a lot of folks struggling to adapt to the concept of saying yes and being willing to allow people to contribute. Ultimately, our main street will benefit and so will our community. It’s all tied together.”