Mountain bike proponents wheel out new proposal

The pair intend to build a facility for beginners and intermediate riders

The ongoing saga of the mountain bike skills facility has jumped back into the spotlight.

Four years after Wendy Ravai and Beth Pechter first proposed the idea to the city, the pair have selected a new location for the facility following a few failed attempts to find a site.

After considering several different sites, the concept was thought to have been a go last summer after city council approved developing a mountain bike facility on a 3.2 acre parcel of land adjacent to the Beaver Lodge Lands. Things fell apart, though, after complaints from neighbours near the proposed site and the discovery that the land was not owned by the city.

Not to be deterred, Pechter and Ravai were back at council Aug. 24 to propose a new location, this time at the Sportsplex.

“We feel this is a really great use of recreational space for the city and it also works to the advantage of the mountain bike park facility,” Ravai said. “There’s already washrooms, parking, and garbage cans on site; it’s super central to the community and where people live and it works with other activities that are offered at the Sportsplex.”

One of those activities is SprocKids – an instructional program that Ravai and Pechter teach to young riders learning the sport of mountain biking. What’s missing, however, is a facility where they can learn hands-on.

That’s where the skills park comes in. The pair intend to build a facility for beginners and intermediate riders with dirt jumps, practice trails, some obstacles, teeter-totters and wooden features such as bridges.

Ravai and Pechter are proposing to locate the park in the empty site between the skate park and Alder Street. Development plans would include split cedar fencing to act as a buffer between Alder Street and the bike park as well as vegetation to provide aesthetic appeal and help block the noise generated by the park.

Coun. Ron Kerr said he liked the chosen location because it appeared to address problems the RCMP identified with the previous Beaver Lodge Lands site, including visibility.

“It doesn’t look like bad things are going to happen in this type of environment,” Kerr said.

Coun. Charlie Cornfield said he agreed with Ravai that the Sportsplex is centrally located and it would be accessible to the majority of the community.

But councillors Larry Samson and Marlene Wright felt strongly that the Sportsplex is not the right location.

Because of the topography, both Samson and Wright said they felt the facility wouldn’t be able to properly accommodate advanced riders.

“I think that it’s a mistake to bring in a big project and make it as restrictive as you’re suggesting and not have the advanced skills,” Wright said.

But Ravai said the facility, which is expected to include one trail for more advanced riders, is more geared towards beginners and teaching them the skills they need to ride safely once they graduate to the bigger trails and rougher terrain found in places like the Snowden Demonstration Forest.

Ross Milnthorp, the city’s manager of parks, recreation and culture, said that city staff support the Sportsplex site.

After hearing from Milnthorp, council voted to approve the Sportsplex location in principle, with councillors Samson and Wright opposed.