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