Bike Skills Park: The Debate Continues

A good-sized turnout of about 60 people were at the Community Hall last night for the open house on the proposed Sooke Bike Skills Park. As Mayor Milne noted, the session was the latest step in a public process that will resume in September, he said, with a formal public hearing.

Municipal Planner Gerard LeBlanc moderated the evening, opening with a brief overview of developments so far and how a bike park fits into the overall vision for John Phillips Memorial Park established in 2006.

Gerard introduced Judd de Vall, founder of Whistler-based site designer Alpine Bike Parks. de Vall spoke about the upsides of having a family friendly cycling park in the residential heart of town and why increasing numbers of communities across North America are opting for them as 21st century playgrounds.

He then offered specifics about the Sooke blueprint and facilitated a lively two-hour discussion that covered a full range of pros and cons, support and opposition. The project is in its early stages, he emphasized, and it can be downsized to a simple bike playground suitable for pre-schoolers and youngsters at the foot of the hill or built out to its full capacity as an attraction for teens and active adults. Alpine’s previous projects have ranged in cost from $9k to $4.2 million, he said. Sooke’s proposed budget is $300,000 – about the same cost as an ordinary swings-and-roundabouts playground.

At least 25 people spoke for or against the proposal and some were quite passionate about it. The park hits close to home for some folks, literally, and they naturally have concerns. Others in the audience could see the value of having a kid-and-parent friendly bike park linked directly to  Sooke’s existing network of bike trails.

Whatever their view, however, it seems that everyone recognized the value of a bike skills park. The real contentious issue is its location at John Phillips Memorial Park. Some people had further concerns such as cost to the taxpayer and liability to the District.

The people who spoke in favour view the bike facility as one important element in encouraging more people – residents and out-of-towners alike – to take advantage of a green space that many believe is dramatically underutilized. Increased park use of the park was a priority of the 2006 committee, which was chaired by Neil Flynn and based on considerable input from the public (through open houses, information sessions, group presentations and a residential survey).

Transition Sooke sees the addition of a bike skills park to the community, in it’s various potential forms and possible locations, as a great asset that is in line with the principles of building resilience and community connections. It will promote healthy activities for young and old, while giving people the opportunity to safely practice bicycle handling skills. This is one aspect of our hopes for a future that will see a town that encourages walking, cycling and healthy physical activity and sustainable transportation .

As far as the location is concerned, we are pleased that there is dialogue and hopeful that everyone  can come to a resolution that benefits the community as a whole.

Please give some thought of your own to the subject. The best starting point is the District of Sooke’s website, where staffer Laura Byrne has put together a full package of  background documents.  http://www.sooke.ca/EN/main/government/devservices/parks/projects.html#BikeSkills.

JPparkplan

Laura welcomes further public comment, which can be sent to info@sooke.ca.

regards from Andrew, Jeff, Margaret, Sofie, Eric, Lee, Michael, Stephen & Yvonne

Transition Sooke core team

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