The Olympic sport of bmx bicycle riding is an ever growing sport and amenity being provided by even smaller cities such as Patterson and Atwater. Tuesday night the Turlock City Council expressed some support for the sport and providing a place to do it but did not approve the Christoffersen + Walnut storm basin proposal. The unknown operational guidelines and rules ultimately sent the project back to the Parks, Recreation, and Community Commission for definition before any location is to be approved by Council. The bike park project began in January 2007.
The City of Turlock has been trying to propose a dirt jump area for cyclists to participate in their sport. The proposal to build a dirt course on a raised portion of the Christoffersen + Walnut storm basin went through the Parks, Recreation, and Community Commission in July of 2008 and was approved with support from the commission.
After much discussion for and against the proposal, the location was the focal point. Like most proposals, locations are often opposed by neighborhoods for fear of what increased people coming into their neighborhood may cause such as vehicle traffic, crime, and noise.
There were statements that cars have been stolen in that neighborhood, vandalism has occurred, and that strangers on bikes are already coming through the neighborhood even before the bike park has been approved. Residents in the area felt that despite these current problems, their neighborhood was a nice one and felt that a bike park would affect their quality of life.
The Turlock Unified School District has been opposed to the bike park location as it would sit next to a future school and is nearby the current Walnut Elementary School. Their concerns have included dust, traffic, noise, disruption of the educational process, and in general the close proximity to a school.
Many parks neighbor schools in Turlock and the proposed bike park site of Christoffersen + Walnut storm basin has been planned to have a practice baseball field and soccer fields. Schools are expected to use the practice area along with the public.
Turlock City Council Candidate David Fransen has been leading the project on behalf of the community group pushing for a bike park. Fransen stated that the project began when a 14 year old boy contacted him in January 2007 asking about how to get a bike park in Turlock and asking who could help him. He saw this as a great, cost effective amenity for the whole community and took up the project. Fransen stated that the concerns brought up will be concerns that almost any neighborhood could present and that the benefit of the whole community be considered as many other cities are providing a place for the Olympic sport to be practiced.
Some members of the Turlock City Council agreed with a citizen when he said that he felt this was a cheap way out of doing something right as the area is small and just a dirt course.
The proposal was put together and the design was made from what community bike riders wanted. The approximate 100’ x 275’ raised portion of the storm basic was also chosen for cost reasons.
Councilman Ted Howze mentioned the possibility of putting the bike park on S. Walnut since the proposed shelter for that location wasn’t approved. Howze expressed how this location would allow for a bigger and better bike park to be done right. Howze did not address who would pay for the bigger and better cost though.
Mayor John Lazar felt that the same infrastructure and safety needs that were lacking to support the shelter proposal present the same concerns for sending children and bike traffic over by the sewer plant. Mayor Lazar stated that he would not be able to support the unsafe Walnut location if it came back as an alternative site.
The Turlock City Council understood the concerns but focused rather on how the bike park would be operated and what rules would be set in place. After the operations and rules are defined the Council said that they and the neighborhood may be able to see more clearly what the real impacts would be.
Councilman Kurt Spycher basically summed the meeting up by saying that it seemed like everyone was in support of a bike park, the cost with the project is great, but that a comprehensive operational plan be presented before approving any location.
The bike park proposal will now go back to the Parks, Recreation, and Community Commission looking to define a comprehensive operational plan while taking some direction by the City Attorney and Chief of Police along with public input.
Once a comprehensive operational plan is defined, the bike park proposal will go before the City Council again for a site approval including the comprehensive operational plan.