Nunavik’s 1st permanent skate park offers drops, laughs and rides for kids
Around 4 p.m. everyday in Inukjuak, Quebec, there is a mad rush for a shipping container in town. Valuable cargo is inside: skateboards, rollerblades and protective equipment.
Kids of all ages rush inside when the doors are unlocked, to be the first of the day to roll on the smooth concrete of the Inuit Village’s brand new skatepark.
« I knew it was going to get a lot of use, but it’s got even more use than I thought it would, » said Caroline Gleason, the teacher who spearheaded the skatepark construction project.
« Even kids who don’t use skateboards or use bikes, they slide on their butts or run around. »
Big boost after hard times
Gleason, who taught at the local school before moving to Umiujaq this school year, says the idea for the project came at a difficult time for the community a few years ago.
« It had been a really tough year and we had lost a lot of people in the community to suicide… That summer we lost a 14-year-old student to suicide, » she explained.
“There was a big town meeting following this, with different organizations in the community, to try to come up with a solution to [the issue]or to try to find an outlet for the children. »
After another meeting in 2020, caused by the closure of some services of the local dispensary, discussions on the project began again.
That’s when Gleason kicked into high gear and joined the non-profit organization Make Life Skate Life.
« They’re building skateparks all over the world in underserved communities, » she said. « Right away they were interested in working on this project. It would be their first skate park in North America. »
Then she had what she calls a light bulb moment.
As with most things in Nunavik, the hardest part of any construction project is the logistics of shipping equipment and machinery by boat or plane. That’s why she turned to CRT Construction Inc., which already had work crews in the area.
« Right now they’re building a hydroelectric dam, so we had that window of opportunity to get access to all the materials and the expertise on how to build on permafrost and what concrete we should be using, » she said.
Inukjuamiut youth gather en masse
Before this summer, Mary Anaukak had never walked on a skateboard.
Now, the 7th grader steps up the ramp with abandon, though she’s not quite ready to drop into the quarterpipe just yet.
When asked why she loves skateboarding, Anaukak cuts to the chase.
« Because it’s funny. »
His friends all agree. Parents too.
« My daughter came home several times and said, ‘Dad, look!’ and showed me all these bruises, » Tommy Palliser said with a laugh. « She said, ‘That was awesome!' »
For Gleason, the project was inspirational.
« I’m emotional about it, » she said. “I now want to build a skateboard park in every community in Nunavik.