A mountain bike skills park has jumped one hurdle closer to reality after city council gave its support for the facility Monday night.
Council approved a referral process that will assess the development of such a facility at Willow Point Park, between Alder Street and the Sportsplex skateboard park.
If there are no concerns identified during the process, the city will prepare a Licence of Occupation Agreement to allow the Bike Park Society use of the city land.
The society intends to build a park for beginner and intermediate riders with dirt jumps, practice trails, some obstacles, teeter-totters and wooden features such as bridges.
The dirt jumps and runs will be colour-coded by difficulty, using international mountain bike and ski colour codes.
The society presented its proposal to the public during a consultation session Sept. 24 at the Sportsplex.
Beth Pechter, one of two co-founders of the bike park society, told council at its Monday night meeting that support for the park was high.
“Twenty individuals supported the project and the location. They were thrilled with having a bike park in their community and they were really, really excited and supported us overall,” Pechter said. “Two individuals initially had concerns with noise but after receiving all of the information were satisfied with the plan.”
Pechter said the park will only be open during daylight hours, the facility will not be lit, and will not have any speakers.
Plans also call for bushes and split cedar fencing to act as a barrier between the skills park and Alder Street.
While the majority of council supported the location, Coun. Larry Samson was the lone councillor to oppose the Sportsplex site.
“I don’t believe this is the right spot,” Samson said. “I have supported the mountain bike skills park but I believe this area is too tight.
“Unless we can challenge the bikers, they’re soon going to get tired going over the six tracks, just going back and forth, so I think, rather than doing a project on a small scale, I think we should do something bigger. There’s properties like the McPhedran Road property the School District has, there’s the Holm Road reservoir next to the Couverdon property,” Samson added. “I think there’s other properties better suited to put in a much higher class bike park.”
Coun. Marlene Wright said while she supported the bike park, she had the same concerns as Samson.
“I feel it’s really restricted,” Wright said. “If it’s too small and too restricted in the location, then we don’t really look to a successful future because we’ll be be looking for something more very shortly.”
Mayor Andy Adams said while he too was at first skeptical of the site, he changed his mind after learning the park is focused on the training aspect, to have a hands-on facility to complement the bike park society’s SprocKids classroom program.
“This is more of a training facility to provide mountain biking youth and adults in our community with the skills before putting them out in the bush and ending up in emerge,” said Adams who noted that there are more advanced trails readily available in the Snowden Demonstration Forest.
Coun. Ron Kerr urged council to support the park and the members of the society who have been working to bring the facility to the community since 2011.
“This group has jumped through every hoop so far, jumped every hill, done everything they needed to do over and over again,” Kerr said. “We previously approved this, this support for them, and I can’t see pulling it out from under them at this point.”
Council did, in fact, approve developing a mountain bike facility on a 3.2 acre site adjacent to the Beaver Lodge Lands on Dogwood Street in June of 2014. Things fell apart, however, after complaints from neighbours near the proposed site and the discovery that the land was not owned by the city.
Not to be deterred, the society came back to council with a new location in August, prior to the public consultation session.
Wendy Ravai, the other co-founder of the skills park society, told council Aug. 24 that the Sportsplex is the ideal location because there are already washrooms, parking and garbage cans on site, it’s central to the community, and it works with other activities offered at the Sportsplex.
The location now has to make it through the city’s review process which means the concept will be referred to the city’s parks and recreation, utilities, and roads departments as well as external agencies such as BC Hydro, Fortis, and Shaw.