How — and why — a popular Dallas skate park’s vision has grown to include fighting food insecurity

Regular Sunday morning food drives at 4DWN are just the start of a movement that includes a food bank, an urban farm and more aimed at helping hungry local families

DALLAS — It wasn’t long after their business first opened in 2015 that the owners of the urban Dallas skate park 4DWN — located about a quarter of a mile south of Deep Ellum — decided they needed to add a few new tricks into their initial vision. 

Simply providing local skateboarders with a place to practice their ollies and kickflips just wasn’t enough, co-founders Mike Crum and Rob Cahill quickly learned by interacting with the earliest adaptors to their park.

“We realized that the kids who were coming to skate were hungry,” Crum says. “And we wanted to give them something healthy to eat.”

So, keeping in line with the decision to name their business 4DWN in the first place — “It’s a metaphor for the four wheels of a skateboard rolling forward and overcoming challenges,” Cahill says — the pair of former professional skateboarders behind the brand have steadily worked toward adding both a food bank and an urban farm to their main skate park operations.

It’s Sunday morning, and two dozen volunteers have gathered to divide fruit, vegetables and other staples into boxes that will be delivered later in the day to as many as 100 local families in need.

The food they’re sorting comes from two local Whole Foods Markets that have decided to help the project by offering surplus items in bulk to 4DWN volunteers who pick up the goods and then bring them to the park for sorting.

The volunteers at 4DWN are a truly diverse lot. There’s Angela Vega, here with her boyfriend. Freddy Cavazos, meanwhile, came with his daughter Savanah. And then there’s Isaac Berry, a skater from Oak Cliff. 

“This is a great place,” Berry says. “There aren’t many places to skate in South Dallas — and this one is free. Plus, what they’re doing with the food bank and the hydroponic garden is exciting.”

Wait. A hydroponic garden at a skate park? That’s the eventual plan, yes. 

In fact, it’s only part of the plan. 

In collaboration with the Oak Cliff Veggie Project and Restorative Farms (among others), 4DWN hopes to build a hydroponic garden under the deck of the park’s half pipe. (A halfpipe, for the uninitiated, is the two-story concave ramp that skaters use gain speed for airborne tricks). 

As part of its own initiative, the Oak Cliff Veggie Project says its already grows and distributes free food to 1,000 local families a month. It also is integrally involved with a piece of land located next to the skate park as part of an effort it calls “Own The Acre.”

One day soon, Cahill envisions 4DWN and Oak Cliff Veggie Project turning the “Own The Acre” property into a closed-loop urban farm. He foresees a farm where there is no waste. The skate park, in this vision, will save rainwater that will be used to irrigate an organic garden on the land. The produce? It will go to families at no charge. Agricultural waste? That would be utilized in a rapid composting system. And the compost? That will be used in the garden and distributed to those in need.

There are many moving parts in this larger concept. One problem, though: You can’t just start a farm in Downtown Dallas. You have to get permits. 

For the last year, 4DWN Director of Cultural Activities Theresa Tumminia has been trying to navigate the bureaucracy at Dallas City Hall to complete the paperwork needed for the full 4DWN vision to flourish.

At the same time, Tumminia has broadened the community footprint of the skate park with events such as the Sunday morning food drives, yoga classes and even regular meetings for skaters struggling with sobriety.

Recently, Tumminia helped procure a refrigerated shipping container so the park can store provisions with reduced spoilage. She’s constantly applying for grants to help the nonprofit, too.

She knows that money is the ultimate fertilizer that 4DWN needs to cultivate its full dream of helping those in need throughout Dallas. 

But she also knows she’ll get there one day. 

Because rolling forward and overcoming challenges? That’s what 4DWN’s always done.

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