Dedicated youth and donated soil combine to bring $60,000 project to fruition.
A year ago the Vancouver Park Board approved plans to create a dirt jump park in a piece of undeveloped land just east of the Vancouver Planetarium. On Saturday, Oct. 2, the new facility officially opened, with local BMX and dirt jump riders quick to take advantage of the sunny weather and brand new facility to show off their high-flying skills.
“Electric. Awesome.” Those were the words 11 year old Eddy Ryan of Kitsilano used to describe the park. He’s stoked to have it within cycling distance in his neighbourhood. “You can practice more because it’s close to your home. It’s not all the way out in Burnaby or Langley.”
For the uninitiated, dirt jumps are built from natural materials and feature jumps of various sizes and styles that allow riders to take off, gain enough altitude to perform tricks in mid-air, and then land smoothly. Some of the common features are known as ‘gap jumps’, ‘table tops’, and ‘saddle backs’. The Vanier Park facility consists of three tracks, for beginner, intermediate, and expert riders, with a fourth, smaller ‘pump’ track situated off to one side.
The Vanier Park jumps aren’t Vancouver’s first. For years there was an unofficial set of dirt jumps near Oak and 37th Ave, but when that undeveloped piece of land was turned into playing fields, the jumps were taken out. With nowhere to go, riders approached the Park Board looking for help. Park Board Commissioner Sarah Blyth, who has also been instrumental in the creation of a number of local skateboard parks, helped spearhead the project.
“This is one of the biggest and best days of my life… and I’ve had a lot of good days,” said Blyth. “One of the coolest moments of my time on the Park Board was at the meeting to approve the plan. The room was packed with young people. One of the mothers came up to me afterward and commented on how important it was for young people to get involved in the process and be successful. So, to see them learn about the political process, to get involved, to be successful and get things done – it’s why I ran (for Park Board) and it’s what I care about.”
Chris Young is a local BMX rider and a driving force behind the Vancouver Dirt Jump Coalition, which enlisted support from riders, parents, and local bike shops to make the project happen. He is unabashed in his praise for the finished product.
“These are the second best dirt jumps on the planet. The only ones that are better are in a place in New Zealand that’s about five times bigger, but in North America, this is it – the biggest, the best. I’ve been calling it the Hastings Skate Park of dirt jumps. People come from all over the world to ride that place and I think people are going to come from all over to ride this.”
Once they were approved, Young says the construction of the jumps hinged on one important factor.
“One of the things we were worried about was where were we going to find the dirt for this. You need dirt with a high clay content. But, someone came through for us. One of those friend of a friend of a friend situations, so all of this soil came from deep in the earth, from a hole that was being dug for the foundations of one of the downtown high rises. So we got exactly what we were looking for and we got it for free.”
In total, the new park cost $60,000 and took two months to build. Blyth considers it money well-spent.
“For the dollar value this is a wonderful facility.”
Construction of the jumps was handled by Earth Ramp Bike Parks, local riders who have been building unofficial dirt jumps for years in various private and public spaces around Metro Vancouver. Dylan King played a big role in the design and construction.
“We’re pretty stoked on it,” said King. “It’s really good for a public park.”
King is especially proud of the innovative features they’ve created, including an impressive gap to wall jump on the expert track, that sees riders take off from a regular jump and land on a steeply banked wall.
Ted Uhrich, a landscape architect with the Vancouver Park Board who was involved in the project, was all smiles as he watched riders getting their first taste of the park.
“I think it looks fantastic, it looks kind of like a land sculpture,” said Uhrich.
The park’s design offers novices a number of options when tackling the jumps, to allow them to build their skills in a progressive fashion, tackling more challenging lines as they gain confidence.
“There’s ride through and bail out options,” notes Uhrich, “so that riders can learn safely. The beginner loop in the middle has a lot of different options for how you go through it.”
In other news, the proposed Hornby St. separated bike lane proposal goes before Council on Tuesday, Oct. 5th. I’ll be sending regular updates during the meeting via Twitter. Be sure to follow along for up to the minute summaries of who’s saying what as Council contemplates this important potential link in the downtown cycling network.