Bike Park In Philly!
Iíve been talking about building a skill park in Wissahickon for a long time, and wondered how it would happen. How do we make this a reality? My early efforts usually would just get skepticism. Since the Philadelphia Mountainbike Assoc. organized two years ago, I am no longer alone in this venture. Mountainbikers have made leaps and bounds in gaining respect from other users and park officials in the Philadelphia parks. One reason for this is the incredible support we get from our members with volunteer hours working on the trails. Weíre not considered so much of a nuisance anymore, and more of a legitimate and highly contributing user group. A user group with some special needs just like any other user group. One of those needs is a bike park.
Itís not a sure thing but a new opportunity is currently before us. The Walnut Lane golf course that is located directly next to Wissahickon is being closed due to a lack of revenue. The city owns the land and has hired consultants to help them figure out what to do with the land. And the good part is they are not ruling out the possibility of a Mountain Bike Skill Park. We have been approached by the consultants to get info on how and why a bike park would be a good idea. A couple of things that interest them is will it generate revenue for the city? And who would maintain it? This is where we need to step up.
There are going to be public meetings to discuss what is going to happen to this land and we need a strong showing of support for this cause to make it happen. We need to show them there is a large interest and a need for our Skill Park and that it would be a positive thing for the city. My biggest apologies for not having the dates and times as of now, but I wanted to get the word out there anyway so the word of mouth can start talking. We are in contact with the consultants and trying diligently to get the dates of the meetings which we will post asap.
The Philadelphia Mountain Bike Assoc would play a major role to build and maintain the park. And we need the support of riders. We are asking that all riders who can please make it to one or even both of these meeting to show support and give ideas. An army of riders would be great. Local bike shops and vendors who can help support the idea are strongly encouraged to attend since more local riding opportunities means more business. Showing a prospect of revenue for the city is going to be a huge factor. However we do not plan to charge riders to use the skill park, so it would need to be generated in some related way. Folks from the bike industry with interest are strongly encouraged to attend these meeting and show your support.
Itís a large piece of land and other ideas that are being considered are batting cages and a driving range. A skill park could also go along with these ideas as there is plenty of room. Plans for the land have not been finalized so we need to make sure we are a part of the final plans. Please stay tuned and we will post the dates times and location of the meetings as soon as we find out. Once again I apologize for not having this info. Thanks for reading. Spread the word!
Good luck in your ventures. i'm not certain how anyone can prove making revenue for a park, without charging admission. Having it be a park and not charging takes much of the liability out of the equation. But i would start leaning on the positive aspects that having a park inherits. And that's having a place where people gather and recreate. Families, kids, positive members of the community gathering and staying healthy exercising.
i would emphasize the tangible revenue that people would be using the park. At Colonnade i've spent countless hours working there. In the beginning, you'd never see bikes there, during the last year, there is not a day that goes by where there is not "at least" a dozen people i see riding there throughout the day. As well as countless riders who come from other cities and states.
I'll second that. An urban bike park will not bring cash revenue into the park, but a solid mtb volunteer base putting hundreds or thousands of hours into the park *is* a tangible resource that they will not take for granted, and if you get savvy with grant-writing, that could be a significant source of revenue for the trails.
The other source of revenue to consider is public funding from local politicians. Plan a bike park facility that appeals to kids (beginner jumps, pump track, mini-bmx track, etc), and do the rounds of your elected officials. They love capital projects that appeal to kids and families and that result in press exposure- tv cameras at ribbon cuttings and the like.
You may not be able to create a bike park that's a cash flow generator, but you can at least make it revenue-neutral, meaning the facility pays for itself and is not a drag on strapped park budgets.
The key is focusing on the recreational benefit to kids.
Building on what's already been said...
You'll want to figure out how the City Parks and Rec department is funded. Usually, it's one of two ways:
1. Directly through tax revenues (mil levy, etc).
2. As a line item on the city's annual budget.
Directly from Tax Revenues
The best case for you is if they're funded directly through tax revenues because the revenue generation ROI is easier:
"We're creating a destination for a popular and growing sport. The visitors will buy gas, food, drinks, bike parts, etc. at or near the location and the P&R/City will benefit directly every time visitors eat, drink or fill their tank."
It will be important for you to develop a relationship with the P&R management responsible for this section of land. Without knowing how they're structured, it's hard to provide more information. Kansas City, MO for example is broken in to quadrants and there are 4 Directors that report to the Director of P&R. In order for any trail opportunities to happen in KCMO, the quadrant direct has to approve the plan. You'll need to figure out who the management is and bring them in to help obtain approval.
If the P&R budget is approved annually as a line item on the city budget, you'll need to take a different approach. You can still present the benefit of more tax revenues based on people coming in to ride the area and spending money, but the Director of P&R doesn't care as much about that since his department still has to submit a budget for approval. Your target with this type of land manager is someone on the city council, the city manager or someone on the Parks and Rec Board who would benefit from having more people in and around the area.
Either way, it's a long involved process. You'll have to remind yourself frequently that government moves at the speed of government (slowly).
My advice is to present from a financial aspect. You'll be donating a tremendous amount of value to the city. Figure out a calculation that is fair to quantify that value. Then show them how that turns in to revenue for the city. Keep in mind that "revenue" can also mean cost savings. If an area is a blight or high crime area, then having a bunch of outdoor enthusiasts around (witnesses) means that undesired behavior in the area will be reduced. Which in turn means less impact on emergency services (police, 911, ambulance, etc) budgets.
Good luck and thank you for taking this on.
Builder of Trails
Cool. Good luck with that.
I just spent two weeks on the WIssahickon helping IMBA help the FOW with their sustainable trails initiative. If you've seen the raised tread, gutters, and culverts, I had a hand in that. The group I was in also completed a couple of stone pitching projects. Unfortunately, I did not get to ride there but hope to go back on of these day.
Good luck with your park. We are just about finished with the Plainfield Bike Park which sounds very similar to yours. It's an urban jump/skills park that was paid for and donated by our club's fundraising.
We raised $20,000 from grants and fund raisers, and received donations including materials and heavy machinery to do all the shaping of the park.
We did a survey this year that provided the average amount of money a rider spends on food, gas, etc...when he goes to a trail or bike park. I can find out the amount. We also can provide estimated numbers for the increased number of riders an urban park provides,.
We would be glad to help out with info or provide references to help get your park approved. Looks like you're off to great start. Keep gathering support.