Help wanted: Selling a community on the idea of a bike park
I'm serving on the PR and finance committees for a community bike park effort in my town. We already have the location and the city's support - it will be one component of a large city park. The basic elements are more or less agreed on: pump track, dirt jumps, some skills obstacles, tot track or similar, and probably a cyclocross course around the perimeter. We haven't started the effort in earnest yet - we're still getting organized, but hope to be rolling in the next month or so. We aren't getting any younger...
One of our first jobs is getting the “what” and “why” out into the community. So far I think we've done a pretty good job of identifying the benefits of a community bike park (tourism, fitness, skill development, growth of the sport, youth activities, safe place, etc.). Now we need to distill and condense that down to a message we can take to civic groups and potential sponsors and partners.
One thing I didn’t foresee was how many mountain bikers wouldn’t get it. Our town has nearly 80 miles of singletrack in the hills immediately outside town, so with that huge amenity available to us, we've found a lot of people (even mountain bikers) wondering why we need a bike park. Most of those people tend to be very XC-oriented, so we certainly don’t want to oversell the stunt and dirt jump aspect of a park. I’m hoping that some other forum members here have experience with getting a park off the ground and involving their communities. Does anyone have any advice or experience to share?
Something else that would also be very helpful: visualization aides. We could use images/videos of people (and particularly happy kids) riding in bike parks and examples of the types of features we anticipate. I know I could root through the forum looking for some, but I also wanted to ask, since our intent would be to use them in PowerPoint presentations to civic groups, for example.
so a quick brainstorm on why everyone should want one? Here's an effort:
-It will increase interest in and recognition for mountain biking (and biking in general)
-Many other towns don't have such a park, so those blokes will want to come in and use it. = tourist dollars from other bikers
-Do you have a bike shop in town? Seems like they'd be on board.
Also, look up the Boulder Bike Park in CO and Collunade Bike Park in Seattle, WA. I know there are some easily-found videos of those places.
In addition to sambs827's suggestions, I would also say:
-Pump tracks are great skills training for MTBRs that can be applied to trail riding
-its a great and easy way to get kids out on bikes and comfortable with riding in a safe environment. Then when they do get out on the trails, they are better and more experienced riders.
-helps build alliances among bikers in general (imagine - BMXers and MTBRS and Roadies united...)
-bike clubs or LBS's could run clinics/workshops there for skills training
As someone who does a lot of community organizing, I think you are absolutely right in trying to line up support from these groups now. If you don’t, you may have to deal with them later if they complain that the money would have been better spent on trail improvements/expansion or something similar. Plus, you want their blessings and financial support for sponsorship (for maintenance and upkeep, public events, etc.)
Given that, it might not be a bad idea to gather an informal focus group of folks – riders, LBS owner/mgrs, etc. Present the general sketch of the idea/plan and ask some general questions (what do they think of the project, would they use it? How would they use it-individually, clinics/training? Do they perceive a community benefit-maybe ones you have not thought of? Are there issues they have with the project? what would inspire them to sponsor or otherwise support it?) Let them talk and kvetch and get it all out. You may be surprised with what they come up with. In the end, in my experience, just the act of inviting them in to voice their thoughts will ultimately result in their support of the project. Then you have a much stronger coalition moving forward.
Exciting project! Hope it all moves forward without too much rancor!
Thanks. Yeah, Valmont and Colonnade are two examples that we mention a lot, although the scale of those is beyond what we're going to be able to do here. Looking for photos of them on the web is a good idea. An evening spent on a Google image search is in my near future.
We have three shops in town, and all of them are involved in the effort to a varying degree. Our core constituency is on board. The park push also coincides with an effort by the Helena Tourism Alliance to promote Helena as a regional destination on the strength of our trail network, so that's a big component of our message, but it's far from the only one, obviously. We've been doing the brainstorming, and have a couple pages of bullet points that are mostly in line with your suggestions. I just didn't want to reproduce the whole brain dump here, so I summarized them very briefly in my initial post (tourism, youth activities, safe place for kids, expanding the sport, skills development, year-round riding, and so on).
We expect to be giving presentations to civic groups, fraternal groups like the Elks, getting into the paper, you name it. I guess what I'm looking for is advice on messaging that worked well for others in reaching out beyond the 'core' community and into the public at large.
Thanks, wahday. We must have posted at the same moment.
I'm pleased that your suggestions as a community organizer are in line with our approach so far. We've actually had several public meetings over the course of the last 6 months or so, facilitated and organized by our city parks director. We're fortunate to have her enthusiastic support, and she has similar experience, although she's not versed in bike parks. The meetings were pretty well attended, and represented a surprisingly broad group of interests, from enthusiastic riders, business owners, and parents tired of their kids getting busted for riding BMX bikes in the skate park. We used those meetings as a listening opportunity to figure out who was coming, what their interest was, and what they wanted in a park (must-haves and nice-to-haves, for example). We've also had an initial consultation with IMBA's Trail Solutions, although the end result needs a lot of expanding upon.
At our last big meeting we had a sign-up for design, finance, PR and construction committees, and now those committees are meeting on our own schedules. We can't fundraise or advertise without a message, and the message needs a design, so we're all moving forward in baby steps like a three-legged race.
You're absolutely right about developing a strong coalition. And frankly, while we all have our ideas, I don't think any of us has the arrogance to think that we can or should speak for the entire riding community or city. I don't anticipate much rancor or controversy. Our biggest issue will be donor fatigue, since ours is one of several components of the city park that are moving forward now that the park has reached that stage.
Great to hear about such a cool project in MT! We recently started MTB Missoula to work on similar projects over here. While we dont have much experience related to bike parks but we are getting some headway with some trail projects. I know the riding in Helena is superb and I alwasy make it over there a few times a year, this could be a huge asset the mtn biking community in all of MT. I would also offer any assistance if needed. There have been some great articles in recent issues of Bike Mag that highlight the benefits of bike parks.
Thanks! Glad to hear you have some things in the works in Msla, too. We should have a web (or at least Facebook) presence before too much longer, and I'll definitely post about it in the ID/MT/WY forum.
I know we're seeing more and more riders from around the state. I'm the kind of bike geek who knows most of the high-end bikes in this town, so when I see one I don't recognize it's a good bet it's a visitor. We see a lot of early and late season riders from Bozeman, in particular.
every area is different, here's a project i'm involved with with a bunch of other people. it's a fairly complex project involving the city. from what i learned get a professional park builder involved to help with the presentation to the authority/city hall (they do such presentations regularly and have great insight). it is also important to get a champion in city hall (etc) to support the project and also be present at the presentation.
here's some plans of what we are doing...
"the vinyl basement"
I don't know whether this fits your current plan; but one of the most effective community engagement strategies that our local group, Evergreen MTB Alliance, has employed is involving volunteers in design and construction. Colonnade and Duthie Hill (another Seattle area project you might want to check out) both leveraged the skills of local trail-builders to create parks that are designed by and for actual riders, rather than by landscape architects or city planners who were simply implementing cookie-cutter blueprints.
This served to connect the trail-builder community -- many of whom had never worked on "legit" trails -- with EMBA. The chance to work on trails that they know will not be shut down or ripped out is a strong incentive to design quality lines and become stewards of the project, rather than just users.
On a side note, the success of the park projects has opened a number of opportunities for new trails that otherwise would not have existed. Colonnade (a joint project with City of Seattle) and Duthie Hill (in cooperation with King County) are examples to other local government entities that EMBA is a strong partner that can follow through with volunteers and matching grants. The media exposure generated by these projects has also raised public interest in the sport, and has resulted in more pressure for legal access.
Best of luck with your park!
@ singlesprocket: thanks. I saw your posts in the 'building a skills park' thread, too. Those are helpful examples.
@GeePhroh: that's pretty much our direction as far as the design. We have a group of trail builders and riders who have ridden a bunch of parks working on it, and I think that a lot of our construction efforts will involve volunteer labor. Your point about this as a demonstration project is excellent. We have a lot of trails in our 'backyard' but I don't think we're anywhere near maximum density. Fortunately we're developing pretty good relationships with the USFS and the city, but those are personality driven. What your comment really says to me is that we lack is an equivalent of EMBA. Our local land trust is great, and their trail coordinator and many of their staff are enthusiastic riders, but they're not a bike specific organization. And none of our bike clubs or groups are really geared towards advocacy. While we have all these people together working on the bike park, it really is an opportunity to create and grow an advocacy and stewardship group at the same time.
I agree that the BMX/DJ riders will get it. That's not really what I wrote, though. I mentioned that a surprising number of mountain bikers (people who should be a core constituency) wondered why we would want a bike park, and that many of those questioning the need tended to be XC riders. Obviously the message will be tailored to different groups, but BMX/DJ riders don't need to be told that a bike park with jump lines and a pump track will be to their benefit.
Originally Posted by cmc4130
There really isn't much of a BMX or DJ scene here, and it's composed mostly (not entirely) of high school kids. A lot of that is driven by the lack of suitable riding, of course. Frankly, giving them a place to ride is a key priority and one of the main reasons the city is enthusiastic about the bike park. The city doesn't like busting kids for riding bikes in the skate park, but their insurance requires it. We're reaching out, of course. We know a number of the key personalities through the shops and clubs, and are trying to get input and interest from them, too. I think they'll turn out in numbers when it's time to start shoveling, but they're kind of under the radar at this stage.
We do absolutely want the support of the XC riders, though. On average, they tend to be older, better established, and include many business owners and civic leaders. People who can make things happen around town, in other words. Plus they're into bikes.
Hmmm. Well, what I was getting at is that the primary features of bike parks appear to be dirt jumps and pump tracks. And, from observation, I've seen that the primary user groups, the "core constituency," are BMX and MTB-DJ riders. bmx and mtb-dj guys live for this stuff. they'll be there 4-6 days a week. xc riders, in general, would rather be in the woods on single track.
Originally Posted by evasive
So, therefore, the next question is, what features could you have at a bike park that would make xc riders go there as a destination ? I like your outer-loop of cyclocross track idea.
I would also propose a long loop with option lines that include "flow trail" and "obstacle trail" features like berms, rollers, mellow tabletops, skinnies, wood berms, drops etc.
As I've said before in another thread, I dislike the idea of a skills park where each particular skill is isolated. Jump here, pump over there, balance over there, etc.
I think mountain bikers like the feeling of cranking around a trail or course and hitting a variety of things in a long loop.... Both Ray's MTB Park in Cleveland and Valmont are great examples of that.
I designed this feature at as part of a line/trail at an xc-trails-park. We call it the A-Bomb. It is designed to be able to be ridden over by xc riders, or boosted by freeride/Dj/AM riders.
I based it off of this feature at Keystone... but we mellowed out the step-down aspect to make it a little easier for noobs.
I also designed this as a weird rock/log feature (called the Rock Logster) as a feature to ride over. There were two boulders there before, but we packed dirt and logs to make it rideable.
Picture from one of our build days at a neighborhood park DJ, pump track:
Our pump track is actually a blended pump-jump track in the style of bmx-trails and bmx/mtb-4x-racing:
Last edited by cmc4130; 12-14-2012 at 03:36 PM.
Yeah, I thought those were really good points. I actually copied and pasted that post of yours and emailed it, with a link to that thread, to some of the people on our design committee. And I think you're right about them coming out of the woodwork to use the park. I hope they do, and I'm optimistic that we can harness that energy for maintenance.
Originally Posted by cmc4130
We have a growing CX scene here; incorporating that seems like a no-brainer. Plus it could be a great venue for races and clinics (the whole park would be great for clinics). You're right; I don't think the truly hardcore XC riders/racers will spend a lot of time in the park, outside clinics and offseason riding when the trails are iced over. But I'm hopeful that they will appreciate the advantages of a park to a deeper degree than someone who just wants a safer place for their grandchildren to ride a bike.
What I think will make it a destination for mountain bikers will be obstacles, jumps, flow features, etc. that we don't have on our trails. We don't have many drops around here; I know a number of us would like to have some to practice on so a four-footer becomes routine, for example. The city has a boneyard of granite slabs left over from urban renewal demolitions, and the design will incorporate a bunch of them in as hard features for BMX riders and as slab featured for MTB skills. At least that's the last I heard. And I know a bunch of mountain bikers who have discovered pump tracks, and that joy is infectious. Actually, at one of our public meetings, some of the hardcore trail riders mentioned that they could never get their kids out on the bikes they bought them, but then their kids discovered pump tracks. I think that for anyone who's into riding, the idea of that as an accessible hook will be appealing.
Another benefit that will draw mountain bikers is the fact that you can take beginners or kids there without making them climb 300-500 feet first (all our trails start with mandatory climbs into the hills). I know I have days when I just feel like playing around on my bike but don't feel like putting in the sweat equity. I bet I'd go there at least weekly, even during the season.
Here's a video of the pump track I and we designed and built (From a bmx perspective it's a "pump track" because all the jumps are filled in and are rollable. From Mtb perspective it's a jump track.... Rollers and berms should always be mixed in to bmx / mtb-DJ trails. A straight line of three jumps just doesn't cut it in 2012. There are ways to make things beginner friendly but still be interesting and not cookie cutter.
Originally Posted by evasive
I would recommend getting in contact with IMBA trail solutions, Alpinepikeparks.com or any of these other great trail building companies. They can offer a ton of valuable insight and sources to help with funding.
Thanks - it's probably buried in the wall of text in earlier posts, but we had Trail Solutions com out this summer. IMBA's funding source page on their website is pretty comprehensive, too.
Originally Posted by gotfish8
whatever you do DO NOT give up! it;s pretty amazing what can happen. bike parks are popping up all over the country. our local MTB group got 1 park 5 years ago and another 3 years ago. one of them being in chicago. Dream big!
Ha! There is zero chance of that. We're building momentum and we expect to have at least our pump track and tot track on the ground by next summer. I'm excited.
Good luck with your bike park. We had a lot of resistance from neighbors when we were getting the approval in my town, Eagle Mountain, UT. Some of the residents got together and created a petition to fight against the bike park. I guess they were afraid it would be a hang out place of juvenile delinquents. Anyway they came in force the the town council meetings in force to stop the park claiming "everyone" in the neighborhood next to the park was against it.
The cool thing is we were able to get the park approved and built anyway. The city could see what a great asset it would be to the city, and how little it would cost the city.
Since it has been built I think I have had nearly 1/4 of the people that live next to the park tell me how much they like the park.
Yeah, we're fortunate to not have that fight, since we're starting out with city land and city support.
Things are moving forward. I'm about to sign a fiscal agency agreement with a 501(c)(3) that grew out of our skate park expansion group and now serves as an umbrella organization for these kinds of non-profit efforts. We're optimistic that we can move forward with a phased approach that gets us a pump track, tot track, and probably a CX course on the ground this summer, in conjunction with municipal water for maintenance and some kind of tool storage. That will definitely help with awareness and fund raising.
FYI you just killed these trees by burying the trunks.
Originally Posted by cmc4130
I went to the IMBA World Summit in Santa Fe this past fall and went to their Bike Park workshop. It was for informative. I basically video taped the whole classroom session and along with written notes transcribed it to a Word document. You are welcome to pm me if you'd like a copy.
Thanks - one of the guys involved in this effort was there as well, representing our local tourism agency. But I'm definitely interested in your notes; PM to follow.
Originally Posted by Dirt Engineer
An update on our effort
Our first pump track is in place. We're planning for three pump tracks, in addition to jump lines, a dual slalom course, and a MTB skills course. And possibly a CX course around the perimeter of the park. For me personally, I'm most excited about the pump tracks and the skills course.
Montana Conservation Corps coordinated with us for National Public Lands Day, giving us a workforce of over 100 volunteers last Saturday. That meant that we were able to get fencing installed and trees planted without having to divert the enthusiasm of our core volunteers from dirt moving and shaping. We had two skid steers with experienced operators, both of whom have built these features before. It was pretty impressive to see it all come together in a day, with several hours of riding at the end. And the 14-year old BMX crowd found us pretty quickly. Although it's a modest first step, having something to show will be a boost for fund raising, getting the word out, and our social media efforts.
We have more dirt coming this week, and then there will be another concerted effort to close out 'phase 1' this fall. We'll get the majority of our skills course laid in. Plans are only just coming together, but the idea is to incorporate rollers, berms, jumps, ledges, balance features, rock gardens, etc. The city has a large amount of granite left over from urban renewal demolition, and they've offered us all we want. Score! We'll probably be able to put in a little trials course, too.
Things look pretty good for meeting our goals by this time next year. It will be an incredible boon to our bike community, and it's great to have such a supportive city parks department.
I'm shopping for a dirt jumper now.