How to help
Park builders are seeking volunteers to help finish and keep up the park. Contact Blair Seymour at blairskimore@gmai... to find out how to help.
Steamboat Springs Even Friday, as the Bear River Bike Park neared the end of the first stage of its construction, it took a little bit of imagination to envision the finished product. But the ambition was evident.
Volunteers worked with shovels, scooping loose dirt onto tall piles, patting down berms and take-off and landing zones to ensure smooth riding. Long strings of rollers led to tight banked turns while tall jumps were coming into shape.
The organizers and volunteers who helped make it possible see a thriving bike park in that dirt. They’ve always seen the potential, and now, as their goal comes closer to fruition, their vision is coming into focus for everyone else.
Processing an idea
The Bear River Bike Park is the product of a plan, months of headaches and neighborhood rancor and, in the end, a solution that seems to please everyone. The ride to the park had more bumps than the actual course now does.
It started nearly a year ago when a plan to place the park on 5 acres of Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District land between Walton Creek and Whistler Park met with stiff resistance from homeowners in the area.
“The political process, going through all the steps, was agonizing,” said Blair Seymour, who helped captain the project. “I had no idea what I was getting into when I started. You learn that if you jump in too fast, you’re just making it harder in the end.”
She said she would have handled the Whistler-area plan differently given what she knows now. But given the outcome at Bear River, she can take solace in the fact that it all worked out.
Bear River was a natural choice for the park as far as the city was concerned. Bikes aren’t allowed in the new skate park there, so having a cycling feature next to it made sense. Plus, the land was available, and with complementing bike and skate parks, it makes for a sweet venue.
The price for the city was right, too. Chris Wilson, director of the city’s Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department, said he’s spent some time overseeing the bike park project. Other than that, the city’s commitment has been minimal.
“The (City) Council was concerned with sustainability, but volunteers have stepped up to help out with that,” Wilson said. “The city has provided some equipment, but cash-wise it hasn’t spent anything. When you can get a park without spending any money, that’s a good deal.”
Donations have been a huge part of the effort. Duckels Construction and Native Excavating have helped. Schrader Propane lent the use of heavy equipment. Volunteers have turned out to lend hands, and Geoff Hollister took off work all of last week to work on the project.
Private donations paid park designer Lee McCormack as well as Bruce Swan, who traveled from Angel Fire, N.M., to lead the construction. Several of the city’s bike shops, meanwhile, have volunteered to help maintain the park after construction.
A project that began with bitterness likely will end as a tale of cooperation.
“Everybody really did agree with the idea of a bike park,” Wilson said. “A lot of people say, ‘I want a trail, just not a trail in my backyard.’ Well, this is a great backyard. It’s public property and a great place in the community to have it.”
Builders say the park will offer something for everyone. It’s actually being built in phases, and the first phase should be completed early this week. That will include two separate but connected tracks. One will be for novice riders while the other will be targeted toward intermediates. That intermediate loop is littered with jumps and will give riders plenty of opportunity to soar.
“It will be a set of progressive areas where people can ride,” Hollister said.
Daredevils really looking to take flight will be eagerly awaiting the third loop, which is part of the final phase of the design. A section of the park already is set aside for an expert track. When it’s complete, an illegal expert jump line elsewhere in the city — the so-called power line jumps — will be torn down.
“The city really needed something like this,” Hollister said. “The power line jumps are pretty impressive. They were all hand dug by local riders, but it was an illegal place. That’s part of the reason this is happening. Once the third stage here reaches fruition, those will be torn down. This will be way, way better.”
The long-term plan for the park includes an extended Yampa River Core Trail that runs past the facility, landscaping, restrooms, a parking lot to serve both the bike and skate parks and a bus stop.
“We will finally have a facility and park on this end of town that we can really be proud of,” Wilson said. “And it will all be built through a lot of volunteer work. It’s great.”
For Seymour, seeing it all finally unfold, after the headaches and changes, is nothing but sweet.
“This is something the town needed,” she said. “The kids need a place to learn skills and play, and it’s not just for them. Teenagers, too — it’s going to be a great place to chill out, to jump and enjoy biking.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com