A public open house to examine the prospect of a BMX track and mountain bike skills park in Vanier Park drew plenty of area residents and proposal supporters to the H.R. MacMillan Planetarium on March 31st. Kits Points residents are saying ‘enough already’, claiming their part of town is inundated with fun-seekers, while bike park proponents under the Facebook banner of the Vancouver Dirt Jump Coalition have a fearsome PR edge with the ‘eco-friendly, get the kids outside exercising’ aspect of their proposal.
The project in question is a combination of jumps and berms made from dirt and clay, as well as wooden structures such as log rides and teeter-totters designed to train riders and build the skills necessary for tackling advanced trails on the North Shore. There are a number of other such skills parks in the Metro Vancouver region including five built by the local company of Hoots Inc.
Although the meeting did clear up some misconceptions regarding the proposed facility (fears of gas-powered motocross events and X-Games sized spectacles were dispelled) residents weren’t necessarily mollified. While having little dispute with the proposal as outlined, Kits Point resident Gloria Sully expressed concern regarding “creeping incrementalism.” She’s worried the small quiet dirt jump park will one day be a much larger, louder venue. Another Kits Point resident, Kelly Johnston pointed out the proposal would mean loss of habitat for the Cooper’s Hawks and rabbits currently living in the unused patch of land. Judging by comments made at the open house, it appears unlikely the Kit’s Point Residents Association will be supporting the dirt jump park idea.
Also on hand to get a sense of the scale of the proposal were Christopher Gaze and Rob Barr from Bard on the Beach. The annual Shakespeare play series raises its tents near the area where the dirt jump park would be built. Gaze notes that while they deal with the vagaries of outdoor theatre quite well, their concern is with noise levels or bright lights during performances. The Bard on the Beach series has a $3.5 million dollar annual budget.
Homeless people have also been taking advantage of the space as a camp. Where they will go when the area is cleaned up and turned into a bike park is unclear at this time.
Supporters of the proposal however, may have the strength in numbers and weight of public opinion to carry the day. Their Facebook group currently boasts over six hundred members and a dedicated community of riders eager to see a city-approved park in a showcase location. And, it’s hard to argue against a facility that gets kids of all ages and skill levels out biking in the fresh air. Even if the facility does prove to become a haven for drug-dealing, gang recruiting, and general youthful mayhem as critics are warning, its proponents are quick to point out the site can easily be bulldozed, decommissioned as a dirt jump park, and returned to its current state.
Mark Vulliamy is the Manager of Research and Planning in charge of the proposal for the city. He was happy with both the turnout and the information he gained from the meeting.
“People want planning to be done in a sensitive way,” he says. “There was strong support but also some strong anxiety.”
Vulliamy says they want to ensure there are no points of friction, especially with Bard on the Beach. He doesn’t want loud events competing with Shakespeare plays and says many people also want to ensure the woodland is protected. A desirable outcome, says Vuiliamy, would having the bikers who use the facility helping with stewardship of the surrounding area.
The open house also drew the attention of at least three Park Board commissioners. Sarah Blyth, Constance Barnes, and Aaron Jasper from the Park Board were seen at the meeting. All seemed supportive of the bike park proposal.
(dirt jump picture courtesy of Vancouver Dirt Jump Coalition)