Bear River Bike Park set for improvements, but long-term maintenance still issue
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — On a warm and sunny spring day in Steamboat Springs, local mountain bike lover Kelly Gilleland eagerly arrived at Bear River Bike Park. She was anxious to see what the facility looked like after being buried under snow for months. When she arrived, the jump lines, constructed of dirt and clay, sagged and slumped from winter wear.
The sight only confirmed what Gilleland already believed to be true. Steamboat may market itself as Bike Town USA, but there is a widening gap in the mountain bike community.
“With the way the Steamboat Bike Park has gone downhill in the last few years, it frustrated me that our kind of mountain biking doesn’t matter as much. The gravity fed scene, no one cares about it in Steamboat,” Gilleland said. “That was one of the points I made to (the city and Routt County Riders), we all love biking. We’re all very passionate about it. Why does it matter which kind of biking we like?”
The erosion left the take off and landing zones irregular and unsafe. So, Gilleland took to social media, asking people to tag the city in posts about saving Bear River Bike Park. She hoped that if enough people called on it, the city would find it in its heart and budget to improve the park.
The mini-movement got the attention of the City of Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Department is hiring a contractor to put in a few days work at Bear River Bike Park. The park, located on the west side of town gets yearly maintenance from volunteers, but those hours have proven to not be enough to keep the three jump lines and the pump track.
The three jump lines will be the main focus of the work, funded by $2,000 left in Parks and Recs budget for the year.
“We have a couple thousand dollars in there this year we’re looking to do some improvements on, but that doesn’t solve our long term challenge of once we do improve the condition of the facility, we still need to maintain it,” said Craig Robinson, Parks, Open Space and Trails Manager with Steamboat Parks and Recreation. “These facilities require heavy maintenance and we’re not equipped staff wise or budget wise to get to the level of maintenance they need on our own.”
The city will contract a group with knowledge and expertise in maintaining clay jumps and they will bring in heavy machinery and lead city staff and volunteers over the course of a few days. Robinson said the work will likely be done in the spring before the facility opens for the year. The park is closed through the fall, winter and spring while the jumps are wet and susceptible to damage.
The work may get the jumps in better condition for this year, but the long term maintenance problem still persists.
When the park was built in 2014, it was agreed upon that the area would be maintained by volunteers. Robinson said based on the manual provided when the park was built, the parks require about 500 to 2,000 hours of maintenance a year. That’s far more than what the weekly volunteer evenings in the summer of 2019 accomplished.
“The wording in the original grant certainly alluded that the bike part would be something that volunteers would be able to maintain for the most part,” said Routt county Riders Executive Director Laraine Martin. “It turns out that that’s partly true. There is some that could be done by volunteers, but some of it’s a little bit awkward and periodically what needs to happen is what’s about to happen this spring.”
Since the park was built, more and more trails have been built that have spread volunteer efforts thinner.
Gilleland is hoping that with the amount of messages she’s received since posting about the park on social media, there will be no shortage of volunteers in the near future.
Gilleland thinks a few more steps could be taken to keep the park in excellent shape for years to come.
“It could be as easy as just tarping the jumps in the winter,” she said. “If you tarp the takeoffs and landings, it’ll stop a lot of that erosion.
“I’m excited I got something out of it,” she added. “I got the city to do something.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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