Causes | December 2015
Community collective Hernando Skates brings skateboarding to North Mississippi
Story by Severin Allgood
Photos by Mike Lee & Casey Hilder
Nothing says 21st century like a brand-spanking new skate park. And for residents of Hernando, Mississippi, a three-year effort has become a reality.
The newly modeled and currently-unnamed skate park at Renasant Park in Hernando sports all the ramps, bowls and boarder accoutrement worthy of the pros.
The residents of DeSoto County can thank Chad Crawford and Edward Pidgeon for their years of work to deliver North Mississippi its beautiful new space. Crawford, 34, was born in Picayune, Mississippi. He got his first skateboard when he was nine years old. He and his family moved to Miramar, California in 1989 and returned to Mississippi in 2001 and settled in Horn Lake.
“26 years later, and I love it more than ever,” he says.
Crawford met Pidgeon at the opening of the Tobey Park skate park in Memphis. Pidgeon is a Memphis native with deep roots in the city, but his semi-pro surfing career has taken him around the globe.
“He is probably the most caring, selfless individual I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing,” Chad says. “Soon after we met I learned that he also lived in Hernando and was working on petitioning the city to add a skate park to a large park that was being planned, so of course I wanted in.”
Once Pidgeon and Crawford secured a location, they set up an account for donations managed by the Parks and Recreation Foundation and began a variety of fundraising efforts.
“Edward did the lion’s share. We set up at the farmers market to beg for change and he stood longer than anyone else. We had an art sale. He did a letter writing campaign that brought in $5,000. He spent years driving countless miles to collect and recycle cans and not a single penny went into his gas tank,” Crawford says. “When construction began, he used his connections to secure the best price possible on concrete and dirt.”
Crawford and Pidgeon have held numerous free skateboarding clinics for kids and to show the community that they can make anything happen if they are willing to work for it. In order to apply for grants they needed a picture and some base numbers.
Pidgeon approached several of the top artisan skate park builders for help, but no one would do it for less than $1000. Then Evergreen stepped up. Evergreen Skate parks is a Portland, Oregon based business that was founded by longtime skateboarders Billy and Catherine Coulon. Evergreen Skateparks is a family-run company that grew out of a desire to make the most fun, finely crafted skateparks possible.
“The owner was out of the country on a build and he racked up a sizable phone bill trying to coordinate with their office,” Crawford says. “Not only did they help but it actually cost them money to do so. The crew that they sent was awesome. Some of the coolest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.”
Evergreen knew how much this project meant to Pidgeon and Crawford and allowed them to be there every day to give input. “The crew that they sent was awesome! Some of the coolest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I actually worked beside them while we turned our dreams into reality with our bare hands. It was a very spiritual experience and we were a family by the end,” Crawford says.
The design of the park was a product of the skateboarders involved in the build. Pidgeon and Crawford talked with the crew extensively about the purpose they wanted the park to serve. They wanted a place for both the person who has never skated and the seasoned skater to enjoy.
“We wanted a park that was different than all the others in the area and that’s exactly what we got. The flow of the park almost forces you to work on the base fundamentals of riding so progression is basically built into the park. If you come out and ride a few times a week you will notice a marked improvement in your balance and turning. I’ve already seen it happen,” Crawford says.
Crawford and Pidgeon want to do a “phase two” of the park with a price tag of $180,000-$200,000. The addition would include a plaza/street area, a bowl and shade structures.