Skills, thrills at new Eagle bike park
EAGLE – Because of the vision and hard work of a group of concerned citizens, Eagle is now home to the first mountain bike skills park of its kind in the country.Drafted by John Bailey, who designed the 1996 Olympic bike park in Atlanta, the Eagle Bike Skills Park features a beginning skills section with bridges, switchbacks, rocks, sand, logs, and other features often found on mountain bike trails. In the center of the skills section is a jump park with dirt jumps and ramps. Bailey said the park is designed for people of all ages – especially beginners and children – to ride mountain bikes and learn handling skills.”It caters to both experienced people, and the younger people who need to hone in on their skills,” Bailey said.The park is possible because of the tireless effort of a volunteer citizen group – Citizens for the Eagle Bike Park – that organized, designed and built the park. The group will also be responsible for the park’s maintenance.The Eagle Town Board at a May 23 meeting unanimously agreed to allow the bike group to use more than four acres of land adjacent to the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink for the mountain bike park.”This group has shown responsibility, organization and wherewithal,” said Eagle Town Planner Bill Gray.On June 17 the group organized a build day, and constructed the entire park – all with volunteer labor and donated materials. The park opened to the public on June 24.
Eagle resident Heather Sappenfield, who spearheaded and organized Citizens for the Eagle Bike Park, said such a park is a necessity in the valley. She has a 7-year-old daughter who loves biking, but can’t handle the difficulty of most area trails.”In this valley where we have world-class mountain biking … there is no place to go that is for beginners, and especially children,” she said.The new bike park has changed that, and no longer will Sappenfield and other area residents with children have to drive to Fruita’s Rustlers Loop trail to ride on appropriate and safe terrain. The hills in the valley are just too steep for many children, Sappenfield said.”My daughter weighs 51 pounds, and her bike weighs 26, so even if she could ride up those hills, she’s pulling half her body weight,” she said. “For these little tykes, it’s asking a lot.”Last summer, Sappenfield decided it was time to stop wishing there was a place in the valley for her daughter to mountain bike and actually act to try to construct one. For years, she said she would set up skills features in her front yard, and draw trail lines with chalk in the street. It was time for an actual bike park.”It occurred to me that if any place in the valley was willing to do a skills trail, it was Eagle because it is so family oriented,” Sappenfield said.Other people in the community were expressing similar concerns, so she organized the committee last summer, began the planning and designing process last fall, and took the proposal to the Town Board in February.Mayor John Stavney suggested the site adjacent to the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink, and Sappenfield said the town has been enthusiastic about the project from the beginning.”As a citizen of the town of Eagle, I’d like to express how impressed and pleased I am with the way they listen to their citizens about this need and have given us a chance to do this,” she said. “Land here is expensive, and to let us use this for this purpose is a treat.”
The four-acre plot of land devoted to the bike park may not be permanent, town officials said, as the land may be needed later for other recreation facilities. Sappenfield hopes the town will realize the benefit of such a bike skills park – and either keep the park at its current location or help citizens find another place to construct a course if the land is needed.”It’s not a permanent situation, but they’ve been kind enough to give us a shot and let us try for a while,” she said. “We’re thankful for that, and I hope that we prove in putting this park here that there’s a valid need.”Currently, the skills park features switchbacks, off-camber practice, logs, berms and turns, rocks, sand and two different types of bridges. All the features closely resemble natural features found on the trail, Bailey said.”It will introduce kids into this kind of mountain biking without going above their head and without intimidating them,” he said.He added that the skills park is a controlled environment, and the features are safer than on the difficult trails. The rocks and bridges are not as high off the ground, for example, to protect from falls.
The Western Eagle County Metro Recreation District (WECMRD) has committed to providing classes on the skills course, beginning this summer with mountain biking mini-camps for ages 5 and 6, according to WECMRD Director Steve Russell.”With the positive response we’ve received to those camps, we will be working on expanded programming for 2007,” Russell said.WECMRD is also offering lessons in the jump park.The jump park, now a key feature of the park, was not always in the plans, Sappenfield said. Connor Walberg, a 19-year-old Eagle resident, approached Sappenfield when he heard she was proposing a skills park. A jump section would also greatly benefit the area, and Walberg proposed that it be included in the skills park. His organization and responsibility made it impossible for Sappenfield to not include the jumps.”He had complete drawings, all the information, all the legal issues, everything,” she said. “I know there’s a need; kids are just dying for it.”Walberg said he was excited for an opportunity to have a designated jump park. He and his friends had previously built jumps on Bureau of Land Management land in Eagle.”Until they got a little upset,” he said, laughing.According to Walberg, the jump park features four lines, each with varying difficulty. Each line has numerous jumps, between two and five feet tall, and a drop to begin the ride. The sides of the jumps will be seeded with native grass seed, which the town provided to the citizen group, and a soil solidifier was placed on the jumps to keep the are from becoming too dusty.
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