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Skateboarder Jaxon Vega at Powhatan Springs Skate Park in Dominion Hills (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

As seven-year-old Jaxon Vega positions his skateboard at the top of the concrete bowl at Powhatan Springs Skate Park, he takes a deep breath. Vega steadies the back of the board on the bowl’s lip, places his left foot on it and jumps. Boy and board drop 12 feet below, a distance that’s about three times his height.

Vega smoothly completes the trick. Taking a quick break after a run, he’s asked how he feels when skating.

“I feel cool,” he says, flashing a toothy grin. “I’m having fun.”

Vega is Arlington’s kid skateboarding phenom. He’s out there nearly every day at the skate park along Wilson Blvd near the Dominion Hills neighborhood, riding concrete. He can be seen doing kickflips, jumps, drops, and even riding two boards at once. He’s also almost always the youngest one at the skate park.

Jaxon Vega at Powhatan Springs Skate Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

While barely out of first grade, Vega has garnered the attention of the skateboarding community. This includes the legend himself, Tony Hawk, who’s liked one of Vega’s skating videos on Instagram. (Vega’s account is run by his parents, Walter Vega and Karla Almanza.)

All of this has come from hours of practice, with Jaxson asking his parents to go to the skatepark in the summer heat and freezing cold.

“It’s like church,” Jaxon’s dad Walter laughs, watching his son skate on a hot July day. “We are here faithfully.”

Jaxon started skating about two years ago, picking up a pandemic hobby like a lot of other people. He was only five when he first came to the park and saw the bigger kids skating. He begged his parents for a board. So, they got him a $15 skateboard from Walmart. They have since graduated to a $300 board, more befitting of the kid’s skills, his parents say.

They mostly come to this Arlington skatepark, renovated in 2019, where Jaxon skates three or four hours a day, just a 10 minute drive away from the family home. He doesn’t want lessons. He just wants to skate.

“We thought maybe he’d want lessons, but he just kinda freestyles his own way of learning,” his mom Karla Almanza says. “It’s crazy and kind of insane to see your kid pick up all of this on his own.”

Walter said he used to skate a little when he was younger, but not seriously. Both parents are not totally sure how or where Jaxon’s love of skating comes from, but they are thrilled to support this burgeoning hobby.

The falls, though, still make them nervous.

“This isn’t like any other sport. When you fall, you hit concrete, not dirt,” Walter says. “[I worry] all the time. But I don’t let him hear that.”

Skateboarder Jaxon Vega talking to his dad Walter at Powhatan Springs Skate Park in Dominion Hills (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Sitting down with Jaxon, it’s clear that like any other great athlete, he’s not content. When asked what his favorite trick to do is, he says a “laser flip” — a trick where both the skater and board flip. It’s considered one of the hardest tricks ever invented. The kicker, of course, is that Vega hasn’t quite nailed it yet himself.

“I can’t do it, but it’s my favorite trick,” Jaxon says.

It was last June when Jaxon, then barely six years old, completed an eight foot drop that garnered a Tony Hawk like on Instagram. The video features Jaxon completing the drop while everyone at the skate park cheers him on.

An Instagram post about Tony Hawk liking one of Jaxon Vega’s skating videos (image via Instagram)

The funny thing is that before winning the skating icon’s social media approval, Jaxon — like most six-year-olds — didn’t know who Hawk was. But his parents sure did. Now, they often catch Jaxon on his tablet watching old Tony Hawk videos.

There’s another reason why Jaxon has taken a particular liking to Hawk, which almost seems preordained by the skating gods.

“We have the same birthdays,” Jaxon says, again flashing a toothy grin.

Walter, Karla, and Jaxon are still figuring out what’s next. Jaxon has expressed some desire to be in tournaments and maybe even go to a skating camp in Pennsylvania, so they are considering both. But for right now, Jaxon’s just happy to skate, learn on his own, and be a kid.

After a hard fall while skating, Jaxon wandered back over to the shade. Asked about it, he shrugged.

“It hurts,” he says. “But I got back up and did it again.”

Skateboarder Jaxon Vega at Powhatan Springs Skate Park in Dominion Hills (staff photo by Jay Westcott)
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Morning Notes

More Issues With Vaccination Effort — “Hoagland’s struggle to register for a vaccination started when he did not get a confirmation email back from Arlington County’s Health Department after adding his name to a virtual waitlist. After he got in touch with a representative who was able to confirm his spot in line, Hoagland learned that the county’s system is not able to push confirmation emails to anyone with a Verizon or AOL email account.” [WTOP]

Limited Vaccine Doses Available — “In a conference call with reporters on Saturday afternoon, the Virginia’s vaccine coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said after the current stockpile of over 900,000 first-round doses is exhausted, further doses may be slow coming. Avula said the commonwealth has been told by federal administrators that at least until sometime in March, there will be no more than 110,000 new first-round doses available per week for Virginians.” [WTOP, WRIC]

Teacher Vaccination Kicks Off — From County Board member Katie Cristol: “A great image from @Matt4Arlington, as 900 @APSVirginia educators get their first dose today – with 900 more to follow Monday. We are ready to replicate this scale daily for frontline workers and our community members & will keep fighting for as many doses as the state can send.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Car Crashes into Condo Complex — “A car crashed through a brick wall and into the side of the Barkley Condominiums along Columbia Pike today. No word on injuries.” [Twitter]

Injury at Powhatan Skate Park — From the Arlington County Fire Department: “Earlier today we safely removed a patient during a minor technical rescue incident at Powhatan Skate Park. The patient had minor injuries and was transported to a local hospital in stable condition.” [Twitter]

Fundraising Effort Collects $120K — “More than $120,000 was raised in December to fulfill all of the year-end wishes of 24 Arlington-serving nonprofit organizations, part of an effort sponsored by the Arlington Community Foundation.” [InsideNova]

TAPS Tapped for Inaugural Events — “The Biden Inaugural Committee has announced participants in the virtual ‘Parade Across America’ for Inauguration Day. Two D.C.-area groups have been picked to take part in the parade, including the Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors, or TAPS, in Arlington, Virginia.” [WTOP]

Reminders: COVID Event, Wednesday Closures — Today at 5:30 p.m., as part of a national event “honoring the lives we have lost to COVID-19,” Arlington is encouraging churches to ring their bells, businesses to light their buildings, and residents to put a lighted candle in a window. Tomorrow, due to Inauguration Day, county government offices and services are closed, and parking enforcement will not be enforced. [ARLnow, Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

New Italian Eatery Opening Soon — “Antonio Ferraro, whose Napoli Pasta Bar in Columbia Heights was named a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant in 2018, is opening a new market concept in Arlington’s Pentagon Row. Napoli Salumeria is specializing in grab-and-go-style meals, including Neapolitan street food (fried mozzarella and focaccia), homemade pastas, and sauces. Expect classic sandwiches, including cheesesteaks, Italian subs, and sausage and peppers… the hope is to open the market late next week.” [DCist]

Arlington ‘Bachelorette’ Contestant Still On — Jason Foster, a former pro football player who lives in the Courthouse area, remains a contestant on ABC’s ‘Bachelorette,’ though Bachelorette Clare seems focused on another beau: Dale, who the other contestants spent part of Tuesday’s episode roasting. [Washingtonian]

Some Skeptical of County’s Race Conversations — “James Moore is an Arlington community activist and owner of a 60-year-old neighborhood barbershop in the Hall’s Hill neighborhood. ‘Our communities in Arlington will want action more so than just conversation,’ Moore said. Moore said he would like to see the county support Black people living in the community by providing more mental health and housing resources.” [The Wash]

Kid’s Skatepark Petition Gets 600 Signers — “I would like for the Arlington county board to add a new skatepark to our area. As you may have noticed the Powhatan Springs skatepark is starting to get very crowded and is hard to ride around without bumping into other people. This park is actually becoming dangerous with all of the people riding in the bowls at one time.” [Change.org]

Chamber Names ‘Best Business’ Honorees — “Last night, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce celebrated the 34th Annual Arlington Best Business Awards at the Crowne Plaza Crystal City-Washington, D.C., in a hybrid format that allowed attendees to join in person and virtually.” [Press Release]

Arlington Among Top Places for Nature Lovers — A list of the “best places in America for outdoor enthusiasts to live and work” has ranked Arlington No. 21, between Scottsdale, Arizona and Tampa, Florida. Seattle ranked No. 1. [SmartAsset]

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Demolition work is now fully underway at the Powhatan Springs Skate Park, as part of an effort to fully overhaul the 14-year-old facility.

The park, located at 6020 Wilson Boulevard in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood, is the county’s only park designed specifically for skateboarders. The County Board gave the green light for construction to get started back in May, as the facility had started to deteriorate and needed a facelift, and workers started tearing down the park earlier this month.

In all, crews will “remove some 500 cubic yards of poured concrete weighing nearly 2 million pounds,” according to a news release, and then transport that concrete to a county facility in Shirlington to crush it up. The county plans to use the rubble that remains “as the base layer of crushed rock beneath rebuilt county roads, providing drainage and stability for the asphalt that sits on top.”

“While recycling the concrete rubble of the old park won’t save the county a lot of money, it will reduce waste, consistent with Arlington’s commitment to environmental consciousness and stewardship,” the county wrote in the release.

Workers hope to finish removing all the concrete from the site by the time the month is up, then plan to start work on some stormwater management upgrades and electrical work. By mid-September, the county hopes to have a contractor starting work on the new park features, which include a completely new set of bowls and half pipes for skaters.

The county hopes to have the new park open by early next year.

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(Updated on Sept. 22 at 11 a.m.)Arlington County is seeking the public’s opinion for the new design of Powhatan Springs Skatepark (6020 Wilson Blvd).

Residents had the chance to vote for their favorite preliminary design of the skatepark during a showcase last Thursday, Sept. 17 at the Arlington Mill Community Center. Those who could not attend the presentation can vote on the designs on the skate park website.

“In the case of the skate park, we are reaching out to the community of skaters and non-skaters for their feedback on preliminary concepts intended to meet the active and passive needs of a diverse audience. The skating community clearly understands the value of providing input for the skate park’s schematic designs,” said Wilfredo Calderon, a spokesman with the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

The county currently has three different concepts for a renovated skatepark, which were created using community feedback, Calderon said.

The county is looking to renovate the 11-year-old skatepark due to aging equipment, he said, adding that some of the existing structures had a seven to 10 year lifespan.

“Any consideration of replacing  elements should take into consideration that needs tend to change over time and an active skate park is no different,” he said.

The skatepark project is in the beginning stages. Once a design is picked, the Department of Parks and Recreation will submit the project to the County Board as part of the Capital Improvement Plan, Calderon said. The skatepark is being designed by Team Pain, a skatepark design firm, and Gordon Construction, according to the park’s website.

“In short, a new design, if effective, will enhance the skate park by replacing elements that have reached their end of life cycle and introduce components and elements that current skaters want to see in the park,” Calderon said.

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(Updated at 7:55 p.m.) John Malvar, an 18-year-old Arlington high school student, died after a skateboarding accident in Arlington Heights this afternoon.

The accident happened on the 300 block of S. Highland Street around 12:30 p.m. According to police, Malvar was skateboarding down the street while hanging on to the side of a pickup truck, driven by a 17-year-old male student at an unknown rate of speed.

Malvar somehow lost his balance and fell to the ground, hitting his head. He was not wearing a helmet. The fall caused “significant head trauma” and left a large pool of blood on the ground.

John Malvar (photo via Instagram)The teen was in cardiac arrest when paramedics arrived on scene, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. Medics performed CPR, Malvar regained a pulse, and he was rushed to George Washington University in critical condition, Sternbeck said. He was later pronounced dead.

Charges — reckless driving, most likely — are pending against the 17-year-old driver, according to Sternbeck. Malvar and the driver attend both Washington-Lee High School and the Arlington Career Center, according to Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia.

Malvar attended his senior prom last week, posting photos of himself and his date on Instagram (right). Washington-Lee High School’s graduation is set for June 20.

The 300 block of S. Highland Street was closed for several hours while crime scene investigators took photos and measurements of the accident scene. Detectives also interviewed witnesses and canvassed the street to see if any video surveillance systems might have recorded the moments prior to the accident.

Via Twitter, Washington-Lee Principal Gregg Robertson called Malvar “an awesome kid” who was proud of his perfect attendance this year. Robertson sent the following email to parents late this afternoon.

Dear Washington-Lee Community,

Regrettably, I must inform you that the injured student I mentioned in my earlier email has died. This is a difficult time for the Washington-Lee staff, students, and parents. The student involved was an incredible young man who contributed positively in many ways to our school and lives. The upcoming days will be difficult ones as we will be missing him and providing support to our Washington-Lee family. Please let us know of any students who may need individualized support. We have counselors available this evening until 6:00 pm and in the days to come. As I mentioned earlier, our thoughts remain with the families involved.

Sincerely,

Gregg

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