LODGE GRASS - Hardin and Lodge Grass each have brand new skateparks courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.
Over a decade ago, Jeff Ament saw an opportunity to give back to his home state and has been helping develop skateparks ever since.
"I helped build a (skate) park in Missoula, Montana and that was really the beginning of it and then about 13-14 years ago, we built a bowl in Big Sandy where I grew up. At the time I thought that was going to be it, I thought then my philanthropy would start to go other places. And then the state started to have a little momentum in terms of towns wanting to have skate parks and I just kind of saw the need," said Ament, who is a co-founder and bassist for Pearl Jam
Ament lived in the Treasure State through college and providing a place for kids to skate in rural areas has since become his passion.
"The skateparks just caught fire and I then decided to make that my philanthropic focus and we’ve sort of been all in on it the last ten years. We’ve been building about roughly three parks a year the last 10 years. This year we’ve built five parks," added Ament
That focus put smiles on a lot of faces in Lodge Grass and Hardin and the additions of the parks are "expected to have a big impact" on the local kids.
"We want this to remain a safe place but also a place that teaches the kids responsibility. They’ll learn once they jump on the skateboard, that you can’t leave pebbles in there for example, because you’re going to hurt. Having this here is going to teach them to take care of it themselves. And kids are going to go and find something to do regardless, so, to have this place for them to go and safely hang out, we’re just so incredibly thankful. It's exactly what our community needed," said Hannah Phelan of the Mountain Shadow Association.
Skateboarding is sport Ament fell in love with as a kid after it brought him closer to his father.
"There was something about skateboarding and building ramps, it was him teaching me how to build something and that was just something my dad and I did. It was one of the fun things, one of the only fun things, my dad and I shared growing up. Most of the time it was farm work and that sort of thing. So, skateboarding was father-son time," Ament added.
These parks are "a place for kids to have fun" and potentially learn a new skill, "that’s what we’re after, we’re after community building and we’re trying to give kids ownership to these places because it’s there’s now."
And providing a place for kids to skateboard in rural Montana areas is a passion Ament plans to continue.
"I mean it’s kind of a miracle that our band still out there doing well. That sort of feeds our foundation and the more touring we do, the more ends up in the foundation, and the more we get to do these things. And ultimately, it’s the best way you could spend money. It’s the most fun thing because it’s all connecting with young people and connecting with communities," Ament added.