More than 50 people showed up to Lonsdale Skatepark on Sunday afternoon (March 6) in an effort to save the almost 20-year-old park from demolition due to the Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre rebuild.
City signs went up on Wednesday announcing the imminent closure of the skate park on March 14 to make way for construction of the $210-million project.
Sponsored skateboarder and park advocate Evan Tancredi said since initial consultations with the North Vancouver skateboarding community in 2017-'18, the community hadn’t heard anything about the coming closure until signs went up. Because of the lack of communication, Tancredi started a petition on Thursday that has since garnered more than 3,000 signatures asking to “Save Lonsdale Skatepark.”
Speaking to the North Shore News from Los Angeles where he’s currently skateboarding, Tancredi said to leave the skateboarding community without a park until slated completion in 2025 and “disregard it’s nearly 3,000 people that support the facility staying as it is or having a replacement ready to go, shows a disappointing lack of care for our community members.”
Tancredi said at the least, the city should commit to keeping the facility in place until a new one is built, or, if a new facility is not built, keep the existing park as is.
“[The park] is largely used by families and kids and parents all of the time. Not just skaters. Every walk of life uses this facility. There’s a huge group of people [the city] is neglecting,” he said.
On the petition's comments, Canada Skateboard team rider and Vancouver resident Adam Hopkins wrote: "No skate park should be torn down before another is built. The new park should meet the standard and design of the old park if not exceed it. Skateboarding is growing and parks are packed on any sunny day. ... No tear down without immediate replacement."
Opening in May 2004, the Lonsdale Skatepark has been a community hub for skaters across the North Shore. Growing up on West Kings Road in Upper Lonsdale, Tancredi said he has been skating there his whole life, but more so in the last decade.
“It's really intergenerational, I guess you could say. … I literally have a friend there who is 61-years-old, and he skateboards, and I have friends there who are seven years old. And yeah, the community is sort of like no other. I've been there for so long, a lot of people come and go, but the core people who love that place, they use it every day,” he said.
“Lonsdale is so inclusive. There's tons of different levels of skaters. People feel comfortable starting there, because most people are really kind. It's honestly like another family to me.”
John Clendenan, the former manager of skate and snowboard shop The Boardroom on Lonsdale Avenue for almost 15 years, said that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, consultations were held at the Centennial Theatre and a temporary skate park at the North Vancouver Lawn Bowling Club site was initially promised to the community.
Now with a temporary park no longer in the cards, Clendenan said it’ll be “tough for the kids.”
“There are parks in the District of North Van or West Vancouver, but they're not the same design. And because each park is so well used, to move all the people that used to go to this one to these other ones is going to make them extra busy, and ended up with people going to parking lots, skating in the streets and [they’re] not the safest places for them to go sometimes,” he said.
Clendenan said he remembers the day Lonsdale park opened and said it’s been well used the entire time.
“We've done contests and demos and events there, which were always super fun. And now there's nowhere for them to do that anymore in the City of North Van.”
He noted that for a lot of kids in the city, accessibility to get to another skate park on the North Shore is a problem.
“For kids without a car, or people who lived in the neighbourhood, it was their go-to spot. So now they have to go to a different area and it'd be nice if they could find somewhere for them within the city and have a temporary spot set up for the next couple years,” he said.
In a statement to the North Shore News, the city said the closure of the park will now be delayed until the end of the region’s Spring Break, and the park will now be open until March 28.
“The city recognizes the importance the existing skate park plays in our community for those that enjoy it, and that many users will be impacted while we are building the new park,” it said. “We encourage community members to make use of the other skate park resources on the North Shore including the Kirkstone Skate Park, Parkgate Skate Park, Seylynn Bowl and the Griffin Bowl that will be available during the construction period.”
The city noted a 2018 plan for the Harry Jerome rec centre rebuild included a temporary skate park; however, a new strategy was endorsed in 2020 to ensure the Harry Jerome redevelopment was right sized for the community and could be delivered on budget.
“The City and North Vancouver Recreation and Culture Commission are looking at interim options, including the possibility of pop-up skateboarding activities, to provide additional options for the community. Updates will be shared with the community as they become available,” the city's statement noted.
Regarding the upcoming skate park that will be built as part of the new HJCRC facility, the city said the design will be going back to community feedback in the coming months, and “anyone that would like to be involved in providing feedback on the new skate park design, can email the design team at firstname.lastname@example.org to participate in future engagement.”
“The city is committed to starting construction of the new HJCRC and skate park as soon as possible to mitigate any potential cost increases due to delays, inflation and the unpredictable construction market,” the city's statement said.