Annual Manual » Annual Manual: Recreation

Two Wheeled Playground

Bike park faces challenges, but earns love of mountain bikers

by

The Idaho Velodrome and Cycling Park—or the Eagle Bike Park—on Old Highway 55 is the Treasure Valley's answer to the Whistler Mountain Bike Park in British Columbia, Canada. The concept is the same, although Eagle's no-hassle, no-fuss dirt playground is a work-in-progress.

This trail system is designed for bikes and dressed up with the kind of excitement that hikers and horseback riders don't want. Even though it's not lift-serviced, there's heavy emphasis on gravity-driven obstacle courses with whoop-de-doos, jumps and 8-foot drops. There's also a pump track (like a mini-BMX track intended for minimal pedaling), a dual slalom course and a 3.25-mile downhill course that begs for full suspension with a minimum of 5 inches of rear travel. For the legs-and-lungs set, more than six miles of nontechnical cross-country trails connect into five more miles of trails north of the Dry Creek Cemetery. The only thing missing is concrete.

After several years and thousands of volunteer hours, the velodrome component of the IVCP is nothing more than a large dusty basin. Although the original goal was for completion in 2009, the velodrome still needs another $1.8 million.

A group of roadies who want a piece of the action have begun fundraising to build a paved trail wide enough for criterium races. Such a course would reduce the expense of criteriums in the city because there would be no need to block roads. Local BMX-ers are also working with the city of Eagle to plan a certified track. Now, the only comparable option in the Treasure Valley is in Kuna.

While it might seem like finding the money is the only roadblock, it's not that simple. According to board member and volunteer coordinator Brad Nelson, complex issues surrounding the intended purpose of the cycling park and its management have led to conflict with city and county officials.

Unlike Ridge-to-Rivers trails, the trails at the IVCP were designed exclusively with two wheels in mind, which represents a new philosophy for land-use officials to wrap their minds around. For example, volunteers designed signs intended to improve safety at the cycling park, but county officials declined to help pay for any signs that restricted trail use to certain user groups. The reality is that horseback riders and dog walkers have no place in a cycling park—the dangers to everyone are obvious. As Nelson put it, county officials adhering rigidly to an anyone-is-welcome-anytime trail philosophy is like saying that "kids playing football at the Optimist fields must now share their field with polo players—at the same time."

Although dollars have dictated a hold on construction of the actual velodrome, volunteer efforts over the past two-and-a-half years can be credited for most of the progress that's been made on trails, jumps and skill obstacles. Nelson estimates that everyone from area cycling enthusiasts to delinquents from the Ada County juvenile court system have contributed more than 9,000 hours of their time to work on the IVCP.