We're psyched to hear the recent news coming out of Savannah, Georgia this week. The non-profit group "Chatham County Skate Park Supporters" aka (CCSS), who've been fighting to get a free public skate park in their community since 2004, have now officially broken ground at Lake Mayer Community Park. Ben Maher, fellow skateboarder and CEO of the nonprofit "CCSS" has been spearheading this issue since day one and has taken many steps in raising the funds for the project through various charity benefits.
Back in 2010, "CCSS" representative Adam Williams presented a charity benefit proposal to Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs International. The proposal was to utilize the designers of Marc Jacobs to design a series of skate themed t-shirts to help raise awareness of the project and all the proceeds would be donated to the CCSS to make their goal of having a free public skate park in their community a reality. It was reported in 2010, that the Marc Jacobs campaign raised more than $95,000 for the park through T-shirt sales alone!
The Tony Hawk Foundation also donated $25,000 to help the cause as well. Other various charity events have been held in Savannah in hopes to raising the remaining funds. Currently the project is at a stand still as Ben Maher and the CCSS continue to work towards raising the remaining funds. Currently, they've raised a total of over $160,000. We're looking forward to making this park a reality for the community of Savannah and it's well overdue! This will be Savannah's first free public skate park and we couldn't be more excited to get started. If you're interested in donating to the "Chatham County Skate Park Supporters" and helping them achieve their goal of getting a professionally designed and constructed Team Pain Skate Park in their community please visit savannahskatepark.com
Check out our exclusive interview with the CEO of the "CCSS", Ben Maher as he talks about the hurdles of getting the first free public skate park constructed in Savannah, Georgia. It's not easy and we thank Ben for his commitment!
Interview w/ Ben Maher, CEO of the Chatham County Skate Park Supporters
Q) Ben we're stoked on what you're doing for the community in Savannah! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what exactly your role is within the "Chatham County Skate Park Supporters" organization, and what exactly is the "CCSS" trying to accomplish?
A) Let's see….I'm a 35 year old skateboarder from Savannah, GA. I'm the CEO of Chatham County Skate Park Supporters. We are a small nonprofit group made up of myself, Adam Williams (Secretary), and Kathryn Williams (CFO). I'm starting a position as a biologist next month, Adam works in photography in New York City, and Kathryn is a retired school teacher that now owns a restaurant on Tybee Island, Ga. So we are all pretty busy people that do this in our spare time. And we love it!
Q) How long have you guys been working on getting a free public skate park in your community and would this be the first one?
A) Technically, I've been trying to get a public park here in Chatham County since 2004. It started off on Tybee Island, GA, and ultimately that effort failed. We've been working since 2009 in Savannah. And yes, this will be the first public skate park in Savannah, GA. There have been a couple of private ones in the past (70s and 80s), and there is a private one currently on the south side of town (Woody's Skatepark) that is great for that community.
Q) What would you say is the most challenging part of the entire process for making this goal a reality and how have you guys overcome the many obstacles that come with a project like this!?
A) Well, there are a couple of things that have been pretty challenging and still are pretty challenging. Fundraising and motivation are the two big obstacles. Thus far, we have raised every dollar for this project. No money from the city or county. It's daunting at times and extremely stressful. Our situation is unique. We are a nonprofit that has "partnered" with Chatham County. We are responsible for construction, management, and maintenance of the skate park. So we got to choose Team Pain to design and build the park without having to go through a bid process, but now we have to raise all of the money ourselves. So that is pretty challenging.
Keeping people motivated is tough too. Everyone wants a quick fix. When is the skate park going to be built? Why isn't it finished yet? Will it ever be finished? Those questions, especially when they come from people who haven't lifted a finger, are hard to handle appropriately. No one person wants this park open more than us. Things take time. There was a lot of red tape to go through with the city permitting. The City of Savannah Inspections department have never seen a skate park come through permitting, and that caused a lot of questions with the plans to arise. Luckily we have a good local engineer that handled those issues. People aren't interested in the behind-the-scenes things like that though. They want action, and they want it now!
Q) Who have been your biggest advocates and contributors thus far? I did some research and seen that Marc Jacobs partnered up with you guys and held a charity benefit for the cause a while back. It was really successful for you guys can you tell us a bit on how that all came about ?
A) We've raised a little over 160K. Most of that has come from our t-shirt campaign with Marc Jacobs and the Tony Hawk Foundation Grant. Adam Williams was working for Marc Jacobs back in 2009 and wrote a proposal to the company. Marc Jacobs supports various charities nationally and internationally. They took the t-shirt idea and ran with it. Marc Jacobs even came to the Savannah store to do an autograph signing. There was a line around the corner that day! It was amazing to see. He sat there all day and signed every autograph and posed for every picture like a champ. There are some local businesses that are supporting us as well (Brighter Day, North Beach Bar and Grill, and Vinne Van Go-Gos) through monetary donations and hosting fundraisers.
Q) It's pretty rad to see an accomplished and very successful high end fashion designer such as Marc Jacobs backing skateboarding with such enthusiasms. Does Marc skate at all that you know of!?
A) Yes, it is very rad! I know he grew up in the City so I'm sure he stepped on a skateboard at some point. Maybe he'll come skate the park when it opens. He should, he helped build it!
Q) I totally agree, it would be rad to see Marc Jacobs throw down a stylish slash grind or something, haha. You mentioned you picked us (Team Pain Skate Parks) for the project, how did you hear about Team Pain and what was your main reason or reasons for going with us!?
A)Well you guys have a reputation around the block. For us, it was a no-brainer. You guys build great parks, you're local to the east coast, and Tim Payne has some history with Savannah. From what I understand, he helped build the ramps for Savannah Slamma back in the 80s.
You guys are extremely progressive with your designs and aren't building just bowls and a street course. I wish we had the budget for an Arvada-type park. That place looks amazing.
Q) You mentioned that it's a pretty long and challenging process to get a free public skate park built in your community. There's a lot of red tape and critics that come with such a large project like this. What would your advice be to anyway that has hopes of doing what you and the"CCSS" are currently doing and how would one get started on a project like this?
A) Determination is key. Don't give up. You're going to have big hurdles to get a park built anywhere. There are plenty of resources out there too! Use Skaters For Public Skateparks! Those guys live for this stuff and go out of their way to help get more "quality" parks built. Also, build a team! There may be "one" person that starts it, but it takes a group effort to get it finished.
Q) Okay, one last question and we'll wrap this up! What are some of the key benefits to the community that this park will bring to the table once it's completed and how badly does this need to happen for the skateboarders and all the advocates who've helped it grow to what it is now and what it will be in the future?
A) Its going to add to our free recreation within Chatham County and the city of Savannah. Less than one percent of the annual budget for the county goes into parks and recreation. Kids need more free recreation, and we're combating that issue.
What I would like to see is that this park is the first of many in the area. When this park becomes wildly successful, and it will, maybe the county and city will see the need for more skate parks all over Savannah and in Chatham County.
Its been a long road for us and many others. I've got over ten years in this effort, and I can't wait to skate it! We'll also get to see the next generation of local skaters grow up going to this park. Its going to be awesome!