Crowd ped­als out to test-drive first moun­tain bike park in S.F.

San Francisco Chronicle - - BAY AREA - By Jenna Lyons

The wheels were set in mo­tion nearly 10 years ago, and Satur­day morn­ing San Francisco’s first bike park fi­nally opened in McLaren Park.

The new fa­cil­ity brought out dozens of lit­tle ones — and some not-so-lit­tle ones — ea­ger to test their bik­ing skills on the mounds of dirt and dusty trails, while the or­ga­niz­ers who spent years push­ing for a safe place for recre­ation cel­e­brated a long-sought vic­tory.

Com­ing to­gether as a di­verse com­mu­nity is “what cities are all about,” Phil Gins­burg, gen­eral manager of the Recre­ation and Park Depart­ment, told the crowd be­fore the rib­bon-cut­ting.

“This is a long over­due in­vest­ment in McLaren Park,” Gins­burg said. “It’s been a se­cret for too long, and it’s maybe been ne­glected for too long. No more. No more.”

Chil­dren rode on a less-than-half-acre se­ries of mounds to give the bikes mo­men­tum. The in­ner sec­tion is called an in­ter­me­di­ate pump track. The edge of the track has a be­gin­ner’s skills trail for younger rid­ers. The small bike park was only the first phase, of­fi­cials said. The full project will span 8 acres and have a chain of cy­cling trails.

The ef­fort started out in 2008 when mem­bers of the SF Ur­ban Rid­ers club de­cided the city

needed its own bike park. Af­ter all, nearby Mount Ta­mal­pais is con­sid­ered the birth­place of moun­tain bik­ing.

A spin-off or­ga­ni­za­tion of SF Ur­ban Rid­ers formed and called them­selves McLaren Bike Park Founders, ded­i­cated to bring­ing the park to the neigh­bor­hood, said Dustin Smith, co-chair of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Years of hand-rais­ing at com­mu­nity meet­ings, fundrais­ing and pe­ti­tion­ing brought the group the bike park they wanted for their chil­dren.

“Me per­son­ally, I got in­volved be­cause my son and I are moun­tain bik­ers. I wanted a bike park for my son to ride in,” Smith said. “It’s about the kids.”

Mitch Bray, a 45-yearold Red­wood City res­i­dent, said he trav­els from city to city bik­ing with his 5-year-old son, Jen­son. Bray wore one hel­met on his head while Jen­son’s was at­tached to his back­pack as they waited for the park to open Satur­day morn­ing.

“This is great,” Bray said. This be­ing here is fan­tas­tic.”

Jen­son shyly held a blue bike, dwarfed by the bright or­ange Whyte moun­tain bike his fa­ther held be­hind him. They’ve trav­eled all over, from Santa Cruz to Fair­fax, to find places to ride, Bray said.

The clos­est bike park be­fore this was in No­vato. “That’s why this is a big deal,” Bray said

Alex Au Ye­ung, a Menlo Park res­i­dent, said he do­nated money to the project three years ago. Now he has a 3-year-old son, who he took out to the open­ing.

“There’s noth­ing in the Bay Area. There’s no bike park per se,” Au Ye­ung said. “When you think about it, the Bay Area is the birth­place of moun­tain bik­ing. There’s so few places you can ac­tu­ally ride.”

His son, Zach, was so ex­cited he couldn’t find all the words. “I’m race,” he said. The McLaren Bike Park is the first of its kind in the city, a more than $1.1 mil­lion un­der­tak­ing funded by the fed­eral Land and Wa­ter Con­ser­va­tion Fund, parks bonds, the McLaren Bike Park Founders through the San Francisco Parks Al­liance, the city’s gen­eral fund and scores of donors like Au Ye­ung.

Once the rib­bon was cut Satur­day, three-time world cham­pion moun­tain biker Greg Min­naar, who races for Santa Cruz Syn­di­cate, led the chil­dren in the first lap around the track.

It took nearly a decade to fin­ish the half-acre bike park, but Smith, co-chair of the McLaren Bike Park Founders, said it was just phase 1 of more recre­ational devel­op­ment plans for the area.

“It feels like the end,” Smith said. “But it’s a mile­stone, and it’s kind of the be­gin­ning.”

I wanted a bike park for my son to ride in. It’s about the kids.” Dustin Smith, co-chair, McLaren Bike Park Founders

Paul Chinn / The Chron­i­cle

Cy­clists take a spin on the wooden ramps at the new BMX and moun­tain bike park on open­ing day at McLaren Park in S.F.

Pho­tos by Paul Chinn / The Chron­i­cle

Top: Kay­den Stack, 2, takes his first lap around the track after the rib­bon was cut at the new moun­tain bike park at McLaren Park. Above: Jake Welch, 2, catches some air over a jump with an as­sist from his fa­ther, Luke.

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