If you’re a mountain biker or BMX rider you’ve probably read this story 100 times before: locals find an unused or otherwise vacant piece of land and start shaping dirt by the shovel load. After a few months, sometimes even up to a year, the city or landowner comes in with bulldozers and flattens the land, returning it once again to its unusable and empty condition, in which can sometimes remain in decades or more. It’s a sad reality of the off-road cycling scene in the United States, as we’re sure it is elsewhere in the world.
The particular piece of land we’re referring to, in this case, is located in San Diego, CA - The Point Loma / Ocean Beach area to be specific. It’s a long-vacant plot of dirt situated between a middle school and a townhome community, directly across the street from a popular community park. This land has been left unused for decades, and for as long as I can remember, every five years, or so, a new group of cyclists move-in and start reshaping the land. This lasts for a few months usually before the bulldozers move in, again. What purpose does this land serve between those periodic times when cyclists make use of it? Homeless encampments and dumping grounds.
This most recent go at creating a place for children and adults alike to ride their bikes in the area only lasted a short while. Someone etched in a pump track which featured rollers and berms - no gap jumps or anything requiring the skills beyond what a beginner rider can accomplish. I was thrilled, and from what I could tell, so was the surrounding community. It became part of my daily routine - to go down there and knock out a few laps to get my day started - much like a morning run or trip to the gym. During the month or two I was down there I met quite a bit of my local community. Anyone from fathers and mothers helping guide their little ones around the track on their balance bikes and middle school kids on bikes learning how to navigate the track, to seasoned riders like myself who utilized the track to keep their bike handling skills and general fitness up to snuff. Despite what age group of rider I encountered, all of them were thrilled to have a place like this in the heart of their community. Even passer-biers who have no investment in riding bikes would stop and watch for a few moments to enjoy the site, a far cry from what the area has provided the majority of its existence. Even a trash can was brought down there where riders used it not only to clean up their own water bottles and other refuse, but pick up any lingering garbage that had been left by others. So despite not only serving the community with a fun and healthy activity in their own backyards, that little corner of ours was the cleanest it's been in years.
On March 19, 2018, a local rider showed up in the morning to find the inevitable - a bulldozer was flattening the track. And, despite being able to halt the progress of the dozer, it looks as if we’re all losing this community serving area yet again. Who ordered its destruction? We’re still unsure. But, we can fill you in on some of the more recent histories of this particular property. Some time ago the City of San Diego sold the land to the San Diego Housing Commission with the intent of developing low-income housing. For reasons unknown to us, that never happened. Back in 2012 cyclists started building tracks again, and again the bulldozers moved in. This time the cycling community organized to get the area turned into a public park which would serve as a skills park for cyclists. With the support of the community, a Vice Principal at a nearby middle school, and even Councilmember Kevin Faulconer (now Mayor Faulconer of the City of San Diego), the project eventually fizzled out. WE WERE SO CLOSE.
So what can we do this time around? Rally the support of the surrounding community, contact Council member Lorie Zapf (email@example.com, 619-236-6622)
, and again, reach out to Mayor Faulconer (firstname.lastname@example.org, (619) 236-6330)
showing your support for not only this specific community park but parks like this around San Diego County.
Places like the Ocean Beach Skate Park like this exist for the skateboarding community, where liability and maintenance isn't an issue. So, why can't we give something to the cycling community?Words by Fred Robinson, Photos by Fred Robinson and Darren Miller