A Community Bike Park for Auburn Youth!

Excitement is building for Auburn children, youth and families now that the Auburn Area Recreation and Park District (ARD) has released their plans for the Auburn Bike Park! ARD will be holding a public meeting for a final vote on the bike park Thursday, September 28 at 6:00 pm at Canyon View Community Center, 471 Maidu Drive, Auburn and WE NEED YOU THERE as we’re expecting heavy opposition from some equestrians and neighbors.

It’s critical that ARD hears from families that we need a SAFE place for our kids to ride that’s local to Auburn!

Truckee, Folsom, Sacramento, Elk Grove, South Lake Tahoe, Rancho Murrieta all have bike parks, and even the little town of Portola recently added a pump track. Many more cities are in process of planning and building bike parks because they are increasingly viewed as a valued community recreational facility – a relatively low-cost, safe activity designed for all ages to promote exercise, outdoor activity, skill building and social connectivity.

Auburn is not only the Endurance Capital of the World, we’re also home to a large cycling community—four bike shops, multiple cycling events and organized cycling groups all converge in Auburn. The City of Auburn, seeing this need, unanimously endorsed the building of a bike park for its residents.

So what are the concerns? What are the benefits? Here’s a quick overview:

“Maidu” Bike Park Location:

The Auburn Bike Park (aka “Maidu” bike park due to the location) comes five years after the dirt jumps built without permission on Union Pacific property were demolished. Those jumps existed for nearly 20 years without any incidents, built and maintained by riders young and old. Although this was a significant loss, it also provided us with an opportunity to advocate with ARD to create a sustainable and sanctioned biking area that meets the broader demand for a SAFE riding area children and youth of all ages and riding abilities.

Over those five years, ARD vetted 17 different sites and conducted multiple public meetings with community stakeholders to obtain input on the location and features, leading to the current plan to build the bike park at Maidu Drive. It’s a good location. It sits just below the Canyon View Community Center, which is a great buffer to the rest of the neighborhood, next to the PCWA Maintenance shop, and above ASRA and China Bar, easily accessible on Maidu Drive from Auburn-Folsom Road.  It’s in riding distance from Skyridge Elementary (4 minute bike ride/0.7 mile), Placer High (14 minute bike ride/1.8 mile) and EV Cain Middle School (20 minute bike ride/2.7 miles) and plus several neighborhoods.

The bike park property is on US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR)-owned land which is managed by ARD. The upper portion of the property has fallen into complete disrepair with broken asphalt and utilities, and the lower section was formerly a dump site for excess dirt and other materials.

Pump Track Site

ARD now manages the property through an MOU with USBR for the purpose of RECREATIONAL development and enjoyment for all. The location is adjacent to Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA), a subdivision of the California Department of State Parks and RECREATION (emphasis added).

The area is frequented by hikers, joggers, dog walkers and cyclists. It’s both out-of-the-way but close to everything. Law enforcement and fire response can very quickly reach the area in case of emergency.

A Small Community Park for All that Preserves Nature

The bike park would be located on just under 9 acres, and while that seems like a lot, the bike park is relatively modest compared to other bike parks. For perspective, the “strider” track, “pump” track and dirt jumps combined measured together would take up less than half of a football field. The remaining features are trails.

The bike park will be built to blend in with the natural landscape by using existing shade trees, logs, and rocks, and importing top soil to create a variety of features, and progressive terrain to help riders of all ages improve their skills while having fun, as shown by the park plan which is described in our prior blog. Many woodland oaks would remain to maintain the natural beauty of the area.

Auburn Bike Park - Concept Plan

The plan also includes basic amenities such as picnic tables for families to gather, restroom facilities, a water fountain, and a viewing platform that will be ADA compliant. The park would be open during daylight hours but closed at sunset (with low-level lighting for security purposes).

New Trails for Non-Bike Park Trail Users

Besides the dirt mounds, jumps and features, the bike park plan includes fun and scenic trails for non-bike park trail users. Importantly, ARD’s park plan IMPROVES TRAIL SAFETY AND SCENIC VIEWS FOR ALL TRAIL USERS:

  • Walkers, runners and others will continue to have access to the PCWA Canal easement (which is not an officially-sanctioned trail). Natural fencing will be installed along the canal and a new bridge across the canal will require bikers to walk their bikes to access the upper/lower sections of the bike park.
  • The plan also provides two new trails that will benefit all trail users:
  1. An abandoned user-created trail just below the canal would be rerouted to skirt outside the perimeter of the bike park, offering spectacular views of the river canyon and Sierras, with natural fencing separating the park from the trail. A new cross-walk will be painted across Maidu Dr. for improved safety.
  2. A second trail would be created several hundred feet below the park within the ASRA. That trail will parallel existing dam access roads, again with spectacular views of the river canyon and the Sierra. This trail increases safety as it removes the need for trail users to cross busy Maidu Drive twice. It will also provide a continuous trail route and connection between the Pioneer Express Trail (which ends just south of Oregon Bar) and the Western States Trail, which begins near Overlook Park. Equestrians who currently use the paved roads in China Bar will now have an option to use the new trail.

Petition contains several false claims:

Mother Lode Trails, an equestrian-centric watch group, recently blogged that the bike park would “bisect” Pioneer Express Trail, and a small group of vocal equestrians and neighbors have circulated this petition arguing that the bike park would result in a loss of a “historical” trail and scenic vistas, among other complaints. Yet, there is no “historic” trail through the bike park per any official federal or state records. There are no trails in this area that have the distinguished designation as a National Scenic Trail or National Historical Trail by act of Congress. And the Pioneer Express Trail ends at the bottom of canyon at Oregon Bar per CA State Parks & Rec.

Pioneer Express State Parks sign Oct 2015

In the picture below there’s a faded sticker labeled “American Discovery Trail” that opponents claim is the “historic trail” entrance through the bike park site. But per this website, this is a voluntary designation to establish a continuous multi-use trail route through various parts of the country. As one can see, no one uses this portion of the trail that “bisects” the park site. (For reference see prior pictures and our 2014 blog.)

Abandoned Trail

Still, to appease perceived concerns, ARD plans to build two new trails, with better views of the American River canyon and the Sierra along a safer route.

Asbestos – Is it a Concern?

The ARD study reviewed whether naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) could be a concern and the bottom line is—there is no reason for concern. Per the ARD report, “geologic investigations have discovered no naturally-occurring asbestos on the project site.”

In addition, ARD is bringing CLEAN dirt to put ON TOP OF the existing dirt to minimize any ground disturbance (even though no asbestos was found on the site). The bike park features will be watered frequently to keep dust to a minimum. ARD will scrape just 1-2 inches of dirt on the upper section to build TRAILS (again, where no asbestos was found).

Sadly, a small group of vocal equestrians and neighbors are raising false concerns about airborne mineral dust asbestos. Per public records we’ve accessed, their concerns:

  1. Building the park will create asbestos issues
  2. Riding in the park will be a hazard due to dust from asbestos
  3. There is “mineral asbestos dust” in the air now – and any level of asbestos dust is unsafe.

Geo Comment #7 NOA Mineral Dust

So, let’s get this straight.

Currently, right now, opponents assert there’s air-born asbestos all over the American River Canyon in Auburn. HUNDREDS of residents currently live on the Canyon rim, including children. Placer High School and Skyridge Elementary are very near the canyon. This seems to raise SERIOUS implications. Should those schools be relocated? Should the entire Auburn State Recreation Area be immediately shut down to recreational activities due to airborne asbestos disturbances caused by those activities? Should major events like Tevis, Western States Endurance Run, the Auburn Triathlon, and countless additional races and activities be terminated because they bring thousands of people to the canyon trails and stir up asbestos dust? Should ALL TRAIL WORK cease? The answer is “NO” as the asbestos concern is simply fear mongering by opponents of the bike park.

Interestingly, Action Coalition for Equestrians (ACE), which has historically opposed the bike park in this location, recently held meetings advocating to build a bridge just below the bike park site at China Bar, as well as an equestrian staging area/parking lot, equestrian campground and trails (separate trails for bikes and equestrians). This effort is spearheaded by Protect American River Canyons (PARC). If mineral asbestos dust is a concern now, wouldn’t building such a large-scale project exacerbate this problem? Wouldn’t construction stir up more dust and endanger Auburn residents? Wouldn’t mitigation measures to prevent asbestos dust from spreading increase construction costs exponentially? And wouldn’t an increase in visitors including horses on trails also kick up asbestos dust that will float to up to Auburn?

ACE (which founded and supports Mother Lode Trails) has been fighting against the bike park for several years now and we have no reason to believe they are abandoning their effort. A few years ago, ACE issued a position paper arguing against the bike park anywhere near the American River Canyon, circulated this position paper and a survey to build opposition. See our prior blog post for more details and our prior response. Sadly, and perhaps coincidentally, the same issues appear in the most recent anonymous petition being circulated amongst neighbors and some equestrians.

#BikeParksForAll

The bottom line is the concerns being brought up are overly exaggerated by a small group of opponents, while we have a huge community of support for building a bike park at Maidu Drive. Over 1,200 individuals—most from the Auburn and Sacramento area—signed our petition in support. Numerous organizations including Placer County Visitors Bureau, Auburn Gold Country Rotary, Auburn Union School District, Newcastle School District, and Ackerman Charter School District—all support the bike park at Maidu Drive.

There’s a huge benefit to getting kids on bikes and in the great outdoors. Auburn is an outdoor mecca. Any opportunity to get kids outside doing something healthy is a good opportunity. Parents often enjoy bike parks as much as their kids and ride them together. A bike park in Auburn is long over-due and Maidu is the perfect location to meet our families’ needs. There’s plenty of room for all – let’s share and get along!

Thank you to our community of families and youth for your support throughout this long journey!

For more information about the bike park visit www.auburnrec.com or contact ARD (530) 885-8461 ext 102 for Kahl Muscott, District Administrator.

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