In The Flow

“One of the big items was the double teeter-totter we had initially built,” Russell says. “Anytime you’re employing moving parts, you have the opportunity for weaknesses to develop. Since there was a lot of traffic on it, it was a bit of a higher maintenance item. But, at the same time, we realized this is what’s exciting about the park, so we wanted to continue providing it.”

Russell and his team spent the better part of 10 years running regular safety inspections, addressing any stability issues and, when needed, tearing down elements and rebuilding them from scratch.

So, when industry manufacturers entered the market with pre-fabricated, engineered structures, Russell and his team took notice.

“When Alpine Bike Parks developed their pre-fabricated structures, they presented to us the opportunity to have a longer-lasting, more durable, but equally effective product—one that still provided an opportunity for skills development,” Russell says. “We ended up hiring them to design and create a steel-framed, engineered teeter-totter. We were quite excited about that.”

The success of that first pre-manufactured element continued to include several features.

“We’ve now got three specific Alpine Bike Parks features in that area,” Russell points out. “One was the teeter-totter. We also asked them to make a wall ride so, at the very end of the park, as you do your turn to come back, there’s a large wall that’s on about a 60-degree angle. Additionally, there are a couple of flow-form “sunset” arches, which are this nice arc, elevated about 16 inches—a steel ramp with cedar decking—that just rolls up to an arc and then rolls back down; it’s a nice transition. The elements themselves are about 24 inches wide.”

The ramp and transition are wide enough to be safe, but narrow enough for the rider to pay close attention. “It requires some focus for sure,” Russell says. “But, we did keep the elements only 12 to 16 inches off the ground, so consequences are reasonable. It helps build confidence.”

The Rise Of Pre-Manufactured Elements

At about the same time, Radke and his team built the precursor to what would be their first bike park. It was not an extension of the bike-skills park, but instead an existing hilly area on which to build what is now called a bike park.

“We started like 7 or 8 years ago,” Radke says. “We put in a little system of directional trails. They really weren’t bike parks (like we know them today), but there were four downhill directional trails and a return trail in the hills. We built them in a separate area from the existing bike-skills park.”

The downhill trails featured the natural terrain. But, as Radke says, “We were seeing trends across the country and knew our trail system was lacking variety. And we knew there was a strong contingency out here that liked this kind of riding. We knew there was a demand for it.”

So, with the land under control and the demand apparent, Radke and his team sent out a request for qualifications for the project that they advertised as design-build.

Ultimately, they chose Progressive Trail Design in Missouri, and charged them with building Halle’s Trail (a 1,800-linear-foot intermediate slopestyle trail) and Aidan’s Trail (a 1,500-linear-foot flow trail). Elements included dirt jumps, a curved wall ride, a step-up box, and assorted rock features. To help defray costs, the team didn’t put down a controlled surface; instead, it found some good dirt from a local construction site and used that to build most of the features.

“I wanted to go with a low-impact approach, and the dirt on our site is not real great,” Radke explains. “If it was real good dirt, we would have dug more and salvaged more on-site.”

The final cost of the bike side of the project (Phase 1) came in around $95,000.

“Slopestyle trails are more expensive than flow trails because of the elements you need to add, but compared to other recreation facilities, they’re pretty cost-effective,” Radke notes. “Per square foot, they’re pretty reasonable, and they’re low maintenance.”

How low?

“We try to keep the weeds down on the trail. I like good sight lines,” Radke says. “And make it look nice. That’s probably our biggest thing. We do have to rebuild some of the jump lips and the berms once in a while. We sweep the dust off once in a while—just push-broom the berms when they get a little dusty or slippery, but that’s about it.”

Size Doesn’t Matter

Perhaps the best part of the introduction of pre-manufactured elements to the bike-park movement is it enables any park department—no matter how small the budget or how small or flat the terrain—to build a free-ride trail that encourages bikers to do laps, test their skills, and improve their abilities.

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