A Complex Trio

PARCS established a valuable relationship with the National Bicycle League (NBL), and was excited when the NBL approached the department with its desire to build a BMX race track within city limits. PARCS is now able to implement its goal of attracting racers from throughout the state to a premier destination as well as to collaborate with local race programs to offer underprivileged youth the opportunity to experience the sport. NBL supported the project by sending international track designer and builder Tom Ritz to work with the PARCS Action Sports Supervisor (a National Champion BMX racer) in creating Fresno’s BMX track. Their goal was to create the best track on the West Coast, and by nearly everyone’s assessment, they succeeded.

Fresno has the first track on the West Coast to have decision makers and pro sections. The track is one-quarter mile long downhill. The second straight splits in half to a decision maker–beginners can choose a course with simple obstacles on the right, and advanced riders can opt for a course with more technical obstacles on the left. Again the third straight splits in half, with an amateur section on the left and a pro section to the right with 25- and 30-foot jumps that make for good racing and excitement for spectators.

Many professional and world-acclaimed BMX racers are also impressed with the new track. “I have traveled to many tracks all over the country and the world, and I can honestly say that the track in Woodward Park is the best in the country,” says Randy Stumpfhauser, GT Bicycles and a four-time world champion. Mike Day, GT Bicycles 2005 NBL National Champion and a 2008 Olympian, says his favorite track is “the BMX track at Woodward Park in Fresno.”

BMX Dirt Jump Park

The BMX dirt jump park has not yet begun construction, but PARCS is hopeful to have it completed by spring 2009. This project is the final phase of the Woodward BMX Complex, and will be constructed when PARCS can schedule Ritz to come back to town to build another facility. Ritz is most known for building the BMX race track in Beijing, China, for the 2008 Summer Olympics. When the dirt jump park is finally complete, the jumps will cover an area of 200,000 square feet. The design will be a product of the expert collaboration of Ritz’s ingenuity and the wishes of local BMXers.

Maintenance

Maintenance is paramount to the success of the program. It may seem somewhat unusual to have the staff water and groom dirt trails; however, in this instance, it is crucial for quality control. Daily maintenance includes:

· Walking through the complex to remove debris and trash

· Watering the obstacles to keep moisture in the ground for dust control

· Filling holes and divots with dirt to prevent the obstacles from breaking down

· Packing the dirt continually for a hard riding surface for optimal safety conditions

· Packing and shaping the obstacles to prevent soil erosion during the wet season

· Watering the trees and cutting the grass within the fenced area of the mountain-bike trail.

The maintenance staff requires extensive knowledge of trail construction and BMX course development. Four staff members are responsible for maintaining the mile-long mountain-bike trail, the quarter-mile downhill BMX race track and the future 200,000-square-foot BMX dirt jump park. In addition to ensuring safe and high-quality trails through inspections, the staff also monitors the complex to make sure riders are wearing proper safety equipment, following park rules and respecting other riders. PARCS intends to set the standard for maintenance programs implemented into a public BMX facility.

Just The Beginning

The addition of the bike complex only adds to the already rich diversity at Woodward Park. At any given time, you can find people feeding the ducks, barbecuing, engaging in all types of recreation, or simply relaxing and admiring the lush scenery. The beauty of the bike complex brings everyone together. You will find families connecting at the BMX track and making lasting friendships. BMX racing is a family sport, and new families become attached quickly because of the hospitality. Every time PARCS hosts an event and local families gather and share in their interest, the action sports mission statement is fulfilled: “Provide the finest action sports facilities for the community, creating a destination for enthusiasts to participate in a sport where nobody rides the bench.”

Heather Heinks is the Community Relations Manager for the Fresno PARCS Department. She can be reached via e-mail at heather.heinks@fresno.gov.

Fresno’s Action Sports Supervisor Ryan Garcia contributed to this article.

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