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Bike park ramps up praise in annual report
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The BMX Bike Park has scored well on an annual city report. - photo by Journal file photo

When Turlock’s city-owned BMX Bike Park was approved for construction near the intersection of Panorama Avenue and Paseo de Leon in 2009, neighbors feared traffic, safety, dust, and noise could create significant problems in the neighborhood.

One year in and that hasn’t been the case, according to a report delivered to the Parks, Recreation and Community Commission on Wednesday.

“It’s very positive,” said Interim Recreation Division Manager Allison Van Guilder.

The construction of the BMX Bike Park – a collection of dirt mounds for bicycle riders to jump from and perform tricks – drew special concern due to its proximity to Walnut Elementary School and a second, planned school site. The Turlock Unified School District and parents of Walnut students feared the park could be distracting to students, create traffic problems for parents picking up children, and attract drugs and drinking.

In order to assuage those concerns, a condition of approval required an annual report on the BMX Bike Park’s impacts on the neighborhood. According to the report, Mark Holmes, Principal of Walnut Elementary, said the facility hasn’t resulted in any negative activity. Holmes had no concerns about the continued operation of the park.

That news was welcomed by Parks, Recreation, and Community Commissioner Barney Gordon.

 “I was one of the doubters on the BMX track, but happily I was wrong so far,” Gordon said. “It’s a beautiful facility and I like seeing the kids out there.”

In one year, the City of Turlock and the Turlock Police Department have yet to receive a documented complaint regarding activity at the BMX Bike Park. Other than routine maintenance of picking up trash, the facility has been largely trouble free.

The only stumbling block was an incident of vandalism, when hooligans turned on an irrigation valve and flooded the park. The flooding resulting in days of closure following extensive damage to the dirt jumps, and also cost staff time to rebuild those jumps.

Matt Nascimiento, owner of Turlock’s Bikeworks and an organizer for the bike park project, wasn’t happy with the final layout of those jumps when the park opened. He had designed the bike park with sections for beginning, intermediate, and advanced riders, but due to Turlock’s safety concerns the jumps were scaled back creating what Nascimiento termed “a terrible bike park” on opening day.

But city staff continued working with Nascimiento over the past 12 months to improve the park, and will continue to do so going forward, Van Guilder said. All future changes to the jumps will continue to be balanced against the city’s risk and liability concerns.

“We’re going to continue to work together,” Van Guilder said. “While the facility doesn’t meet all of his expectations in terms of challenge levels, he is glad the park created the opportunity for kids to come try out the sport in a relatively safe environment.”

With the positive review, the BMX Bike Park will remain open for another year. At that time, the park will be reviewed by the Parks, Recreation, and Community Commission once again.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.