Cyclists drop in as Blackfalds Bike Skills Park opens
Scott Thornhill of Hoots and Cochrane, Alta.'s Bike Bros, does a few runs of the Blackfalds Bike Skills Park during its grand opening on Saturday afternoon.(Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)
Cyclists finally hit the dirt as Blackfalds’ new Bike Skills Park officially opened to the public Saturday.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at noon, but riders were already shredding hours before – having waited nearly a year to finally lay down some track after its completion late last summer, and maintenance earlier this year.
Blackfalds Mayor Richard Poole said they had a tough time keeping people off the park, but that he understood the excitement – a feeling the town shared about the project.
“We’re really excited – it’s something we’re very, very proud of,” he said. “It’s absolutely awesome. I’m going to go ahead and say it’s one of the best in Canada.”
The project was first approved in March 2017 to fill a void in what has become a recreational hub for the community. Playgrounds, Poole said, exist for younger children, while adults have the Abbey Centre and trails nearby. While the youth and teenagers could also use the Abbey, the town felt more was needed for that age group.
Hoots Inc., who has designed 65 bike parks not just across the country but around the world, was hired to build the park, which included two weeks of prep work and an additional six weeks to bring in the material and shape the track.
Jay Hoots of Hoots Inc. was on hand Saturday, and said it was one of their favourite parks they’ve built.
“This is a whole level above a lot of the parks we’ve done,” he said. “These bike parks are great in every community. It’s something anybody on a bike can do.
“In big cities, there’s so much bureaucracy so they rarely ever get built there, but small communities like Blackfalds see these types of projects as being inexpensive and a great use of land. They really dig into these projects.”
The landscape and terrain existed naturally, he said, and they used 50 loads of clay to modify and create the jumps, ride lines and berms to have suitable traction.
Features of the park include a gravel path which allows riders to ride around the entire park to warm up and check everything out before they drop in themselves. Viewing areas are located around the perimeter of the park with grass, rocks and log benches to sit on.
In the centre of the park is a series of balance rides – both low and wide, and high and narrow ones to accommodate riders of all levels. On the outside is the jump track including beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert jumps.
“Blackfalds is situated so the local community can ride on a regular basis, other communities can come here and ride at whatever level they’re comfortable with, and can grow with their experience,” he said.
“The whole park is built on progression. There is something here for everyone.”
Given Hoots made the decision to use clay in the park, rather than the easier-maintained, hardened gravel often used in others, it’s advised cyclists stay off the park obstacles when it’s wet. Not only does it wreck the track for other riders until someone can get out to fix it, the material can get caught in bike tires and create safety hazards for those riding.
Riders and visitors to the park are also asked not to walk up the jumps as well, as over 700 hours was put into hand-tuning the various jumps.
As for maintenance of the course, Poole says town staff are trained to take care of the park.
“Jay Hoots has done a great job of making sure our staff are trained to take care of the park, but what we’re hoping for is a group of people coming together and forming a club,” said Poole.
“They’d be able to not only help with maintenance, but police it and help teach young people. Hopefully that’s something that will naturally develop.”
All Star Park as a whole, however, isn’t done yet. In the future, the town hopes it will also be the site of a new high school, and there are plans to eventually add other amenities to the park, such as a track and field area and other recreational options suited towards those at the high school level.
Later on this summer they will also open Denise Nielsen Memorial Park outside of the Wadey Centre, which is south of the Bike Skills Park.