As a child, 7-year-old Tyeasha Bell Lindsey would place her left foot on her then-new, green skateboard, using her right to push herself across the grainy street in front of her childhood home in Meridian. A lot of streets around her had been worn down, leading to bumps that made the pavement difficult to skateboard or rollerblade upon.
“You’re not skating on a smooth surface because if that skateboard hits a rock, you’re pretty much thrown off a skateboard,” the now Meridian Ward 5 councilwoman explained to the Mississippi Free Press.
To avoid injury, a young Lindsey moved to the small walkway five big steps from the front porch of her home. The surface was much smoother, so she could skateboard back and forth, but the activity was not as fun in such a limited space, she found.
Today, Meridian’s skater population largely consists of young adults, whom Lindsey sometimes sees skateboarding through traffic lights downtown. While some skateboard recreationally, others use the skateboards as means of transit around the city.
“A skateboard is a lot of people’s transportation sometimes, and people overlook them, but it’s a free, cheap form of transportation—I mean, it’s cheaper than a bike sometimes,” Lindsey said.
The mode of travel, however, can sometimes be dangerous as cars have almost hit skateboarders, she heard. Recreational skaters find garages to skate in at night before police often run them away, the councilwoman who won her seat in 2021 said.
“I’m like, ‘Oh my God. They need to have a safe place to skateboard,’” she concluded.
By the end of 2023, Meridian will have a skatepark in Ben Arthur Davis Park, where people who bike, skateboard and rollerblade can maneuver safely.
“Being a new city councilwoman, it was important to me, especially since I’m a traveler, to see what other cities have done and see what can make our city better in the quality of life,” Lindsey said.
‘Not Just A Meridian Project’
The councilwoman began contacting several companies to see who could quickly come up with a skatepark design so that she could have options to pitch to the city council. After receiving multiple recommendations, she contacted Grindline Skateparks, a Seattle, Wash., company that specializes in planning, designing and constructing cast-in-place concrete skateparks.
She presented the design to the city council, who approved and entered into a design contract with the company. Representatives from Grindline Skateparks flew down to Meridian, and after looking at different locations across the city, they chose Ben Arthur Davis Park as the ideal site, which the council also approved.
“I told (Grindline Skateparks) that I want the best in the state,” Lindsey said. “I don’t even know what all of this stuff is, but I know it needed a bowl, it needed a half pipe, it needed stairs, it needed railings.”
The city hosted a design-reveal party for the skatepark on Nov. 16, 2022, at Ben Arthur Davis Park. Meridian residents partook in food, music, bounce houses, door prizes and more. Councilwoman Lindsey said the event had a great turnout, despite the cold weather, and residents praised the skatepark’s design.
“Believe it or not, it’s more young adults or adults with children that want (the skate park). … They are excited about it,” Lindsey said. “What I like about skateboarding and skateparks (is that they can be) something that adults and children can do together.”
To move forward, the city needs to raise funds for the project. Councilwoman Lindsey has already started contacting different nonprofit organizations and companies regarding donations, grants and funding. She hopes the skatepark will hold its grand opening by the end of next year, but she anticipates that at the latest the project should take no longer than 18 months to complete.
“This is not just a Meridian project; this is a Mississippi project—because people would have a chance to represent their city in the State Games when the park is done,” Lindsey explained.
State Games of Mississippi is an annual multi-sport event modeled after the Olympic Games and designed and held solely for residents of Mississippi. The Empire State Games developed the concept in New York in 1978, and today 37 states conduct their own State Games competitions, which take place each year from April through the end of June.
The nonprofit that hosts the games holds a majority of the competitions in the Meridian area, where the organization is based, but other areas in Mississippi also serve as locations for sporting events.
“If you’re a skateboarder or even roller skate, be excited about the Meridian skatepark because we welcome you,” Councilwoman Lindsey said. “(We) roll out the red carpet for you to come on in and enjoy this beautiful city, as well as the skatepark that’s meant for everyone.”
Those interested in donating to the Meridian skatepark project can contact Councilwoman Tyeasha Bell Lindsey at 601-479-3997.