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Group rallies for support for undercover skatepark in the Tri-Cities

It's Youth Week — but why are there no covered skate parks in the Tri-Cities? This group started by a Coquitlam dad hopes to change that.

Veteran skateboarder Dave Jonsson knows what it takes to be a professional and he constantly practices to be the best.

At 36, the Port Coquitlam resident can still wow a crowd — as when he does tricks such as "trust" jumps over teachers during his high school motivational talks.

Now, though, Jonsson is taking his enthusiasm for the sport to a new level: He's organizing an advocacy group, called Skate Undercover, to get a covered skate park or smaller skate spot somewhere in the Tri-Cities.

Jonsson's own kids, ages five, seven and nine, enjoy the sport, as do hundreds of other kids in the area, but for now they are stuck trying to find dry spots to do their ramps and rails out of the rain.

"The equipment doesn’t do well in the rain and it’s a bit more dangerous," said Jonsson.

Since an indoor skatepark closed in Port Coquitlam, local families have been wondering where to go.

Skateboarding in parking lots

To get out of the bad weather, kids often end up in unsanctioned spaces — such as the parking lot of the City Centre branch of the Coquitlam Public Library or the nearby Real Canadian Superstore.

They cart their own rails and ramps to the spot after agreeing to a meet-up, said Jonsson.

But when his own son was less than thrilled with the idea of skateboarding in the Superstore parking lot, Jonsson knew he had to do something to provide a safe spot for skateboarding and scootering, not only for his kids but for generations after them.

"I recognize we're in this for the long haul," said Jonsson.

He said there are short term needs, such as finding a spot for a few obstacles under a SkyTrain line, a bridge or overpass or even in someone's unused warehouse.

Longer term, Jonsson would like to see a purpose built space that could also be used by other sports.

There could even be a nonprofit set up to fundraise, said Jonsson, who is hoping people will follow his Instagram page, join a 3,000-name petition promoting the cause in Pitt Meadows or email him via his website (Jonsson, a plane crash survivor, speaks to youth about resilience).

His ask isn't huge: He'd like an indoor space, such as temporary use of a warehouse, a small spot under the SkyTrain near North Road and Como Lake, under the Pitt River bridge or even the covered bike trials park in Port Moody.

A number of kids have joined him in the effort and even Coquitlam's manager of park planning and design is impressed.

"Dave’s group is super well spoken. He’s got a bunch of great young kids that are way better advocates than I was at 12 years old," said Doron Fishman.

Fishman said a covered multi-purpose space that could be used for skateboarding and other sports is part of the long-term plan for Coquitlam's City Centre area. As well, the new Northeast Community Centre for Burke Mountain will have a covered space that could accommodate skateboarders and scooters.

But Doron said there are many other groups that are looking for indoor space, as well.

"There’s a lot of pressure on our indoor facilities; Coquitlam is a growing community, with growing demands. We're trying to do our best to balance competing demands."

The idea of renting out the Poirier Forum is one option that has been raised; however, Jonsson worries that it could be too costly.

Another idea is a dry spot under the Mariner Way overpass but future plans for the property near Coquitlam Central SkyTrain station has nixed it for now.

Still, he's not giving up and he's hoping the scootering and skateboarding community will come together to advocate for a covered space somewhere in the Tri-Cities.

"This is going to happen. I know it will. It’s just a matter of finding enough momentum with the city to recognize there is a need here."