San Diego Cycling Community Fights for Local Skills Park

Mar 20, 2018 at 10:52
by Fred Robinson  

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 (loriezapf@sandiego.gov, 619-236-6622), and again, reach out to Mayor Faulconer (kevinfaulconer@sandiego.gov, (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


20 Comments

  • 12 0
 Government ruins everything
  • 7 0
 If any of you are wondering Darren Miller is the guy that basically shaped this pumptrack. If you wanna help keep it alive you can contact him on instagram @dmrides for more information
  • 2 0
 Check out @famosapumptrack on instagram for the latest developments.
  • 3 0
 While we're at it let's push for a velosolutions pump track in Balboa Park where the bike/hike trails are right by the velodrome and dog park. That area is perfect and unused. Maybe if we ask for two spots they will settle for just one. That's a win.
  • 3 0
 5x World champion DH rider from Southern California, advance mountain biking trails are illegal here. That's the reason behind the hidden secret trail culture.
  • 2 0
 San Diego has a history of unfriendliness towards mountain bikers. I've been screamed at by hikers who I guess couldn't hear me riding on bike-friendly trails and assumed that they are the only ones with the privilege.
  • 1 0
 Unfortunately, since it is someone else's land, they can do with it as they please. If there is this much support, get a group together and purchase a piece of property to build a permanent pump track. I am a huge supporter of promoting mountain biking, and like to see the creation of new trails, parks and opening land up to the sport. However, I have been on the other side as well. We had a group building a bike park that included a pump track, skills area and small jump line on public property that was going to be turned over to the city to be opened as a public park. Someone trespassed on the land before it was open, got hurt and there was a lawsuit filed. That put an end to this nice public park that was going to be open for everyone to use. If there would have been no trespassing, lawsuit, etc, it would be open to the public now. There was a tremendous volunteer effort to clear the land, build the pump track and facility which went to waste.
  • 4 0
 That's exactly the purpose of writing this - to get more community support to put pressure on the city of San Diego to purchase the property from the San Diego Housing Comity and make this a public space where liability isn't as big an issue. Much like a public skatepark in the same area which is unsupervised and open to anyone who wants to ride it...no waiver needed.

The housing comity's excuse for not selling the land to the city (as I understand it) is to build affordable housing, which they've been saying they're going to do for as long as I remember...yet the land remains a dumping ground and homeless encampment.
  • 2 0
 RIP Crow's Nest.
  • 2 0
 @KoppoJutsu: And to top it off, that land is completely useless for a housing development. They would have to raise the entire piece of property 20-40 ft to get it to a point where it wouldn't be a flood zone.The pump track itself is actually on property owned by the transit authority, that is not ever going to be used for a roadway now.
  • 2 0
 @Fresh1: Interesting to know. From speaking with local gov't, the general community, etc...no story matches the other. But, from what I know, the district councilperson and possibly the mayor are aware of the current situation and are actually taking note...so we've got their attention (at least partially).
  • 7 0
 @KoppoJutsu: There is a lot of good information on this thread. It appears to be true that the entire track is on a public right of way and perhaps only the absolute edge of one berm and the staging area are on SDHC land. The Mayor is working with us to develop a plan and is in support of allowing us the keep the track. We have a meeting with the Mayor, local Council member and the SDHC in the beginning of April. Much like the approval process with Washington St. skatepark and as in @Tallboy97 's example above, the City has requested that we keep off the track until after our April meeting.

We are making incredible progress and I think there is a very good chance of this becoming a reality. I have built trails, seen them plowed or vandalized, rebuilt them, moved on, worked with and without the City... on many occasions and in many locations over the last couple of decades. A very small number of projects have ever worked. Most have failed. But I am slightly insane and still keep trying.

However, this is completely different than any project I have ever been involved in and I am a glass is half full kind of guy right now. The vibe and the support are amazing. I have had so many kids and parents tell me that "This place is a dream come true", "This is the best place on earth", or "Finally my kids want to be outdoors and off the iPad"... The neighbors I have talked with appreciate looking out their windows and seeing kids outdoors with their families having fun together, improving their skills and learning how to be both passionate and respectful.

Thank you so much to everyone who has offered to help and shown their support. For those who want to help, the best thing you can do right now is to send emails and letters of support to the Mayor and Councilmembers office and please respect the City's wish that we stay off the track until after the April meeting.
  • 1 0
 Valley center?
  • 3 0
 How crazy? In the Us 12.3% of the population is mountain bikers, 5.2% plays baseball.
In San Diego County 50+ baseball fields, 0 sanctioned bike park.
  • 2 0
 As a native San Diegan (but I left, I'm sorry) who went to that middle school I have always wondered why the land wasnt made into a park. Thank you for this article.
  • 1 0
 I went to Correia Jr High in the late 80's, and we would ride BMX in that very same lot. Its basically been a bike park now for almost 40 years.
  • 1 0
 Seems like City Hall should have a record of who owns the land, and a way to contact them.
  • 2 0
 That was the easy part...
  • 3 0
 Classic California
  • 2 0
 Californian bureaucracies. The enemies of anything fun.

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