As the bike park debate rages, go for a ride at the local bike jump park

Did you know? Sooke already has a bike jump park beside the ball park behind SEAPARC.

Sooke's bike jump park as it currently exists by the ball park at SEAPARC. Yes

Psssst….

Want to know a secret?

Sooke already has a bike park.

Uh huh.

Shhhhhhh.

Don’t tell anyone.

Well, okay, it’s not actually a secret. More like it’s a fact. SEAPARC has had a bike jump park in existence since 2006. According to Linda Finch, the Program Services Manager at SEAPARC, the bike jump park “was designed by professional mountain bike rider Jay Hoots. The park was built in partnership between SEAPARC and several local youth with the bike club.”

SEAPARC’s bike jump park was built in consultation with Lorien Arnold, owner of Sooke Mountain Cycle. “I did all the background stuff,” said Arnold. “A professional bike park designer by the name of Jay Hoots built that park.”

According to a profile article in Get Out There magazine (Oct, 2012), Jay Hoots is a freestyle mountain bike rider who “has actually built mountain bike skills parks across the country. A lot of them.”

“There used to be a core group of use, like maybe 10 or 15 of them, when it was first built,” said Finch in conversation, “But … it just hasn’t been used for the last six years.”

Due to disuse, the bike jump park at SEAPARC fell into a state of disrepair. However, as the vigorous renewal of the debate rages in Sooke, SEAPARC decided to refurbish the existing park.

Arnold’s vision of a possible bike park at the John Phillips Memorial Park location is very similar to the existing park at SEAPARC: “What we are visualizing for John Phillips is a multitiered park that is oriented to riders of all ages and abilities.” What differentiates Arnold’s vision from the existing SEAPARC bike park is the visibility, the drainage, and the accessibility of the park.

The challenge with the SEAPARC location is that “it’s completely out of sight.” Which may be why this jump park is largely unknown, and un-used.

Arnold, as a father to an eight-year-old, has safety concerns as well. If there’s an off-season incident that involves injury, a person can go unnoticed for a significant period of time, said Arnold. “Unless someone goes down there, they’re not going to be seen.”

“It’s not like it’s a terrible site to have something like a bike park of some kind, but it doesn’t provide the versatility that a park in the public eye is going to provide,” he concluded.

Ultimately, Arnold has a vision of John Phillips of being similar in nature to Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park: a centrally located, multi-purpose park. “I just see it as a real potential for a Beacon-Hill type park for Sooke where there’s mixed use,” with people using it for sports and leisure and a host of other activities.

While waiting for things to thunder to a conclusion (and on September 23 there’s a meeting for the “Committee of the Whole — Public Input Bike Skills Park”), if you have a hankering to go out and practice your bike jumps, you can head to the SEAPARC location.

“Recent upgrades included removing overgrown brush and weeds, levelling, compacting, and resurfacing the entire area and installing new signage,” wrote Finch in follow-up correspondence.

“The park currently consists of five sets of jumps ranging in skill levels from beginner to advanced,” continues Finch. “SEAPARC hopes the park will be used by youth to practice and develop their skills, as well as a place for experienced riders to mentor and teach skills to younger, inexperienced riders. SEAPARC also plans to offer skills clinics and classes next spring.”

The existing park is open for use from dawn to dusk, and it’s available to all ages. The main entrance to the bike park is at the main entrance to SEAPARC. Just go up the gravel drive between the museum and SEAPARC.

The only pre-requisite, which seems like a no-brainer, is that enthusiasts using the bike park have the motor skills to ride a bike: balancing on two wheels while  propelling oneself forward using pedal-power.

And, of course, helmets are mandatory in BC.