The Laramie City Council expressed its support for Laramie’s future bike park during a work session on Tuesday, discussing potential locations and features for the outdoor recreation and economic development opportunity.
Bike parks consist of man-made trails using dirt, wood, gravel or other materials to allow cyclists to practice specific types of obstacles like jumps, rolling hills or rocky terrain in a more controlled environment.
Similar parks exist throughout the Rocky Mountain region, including one 42-acre park in Boulder, Colorado.
The idea for a bike park in Laramie started in 2014 from suggestions by students at the University of Wyoming. After a few years of gathering feedback and fundraising, city recreation manager Jodi Guerin said the project is finally starting to gain more traction.
Still in the beginning stages, consultants Kelley Savage with Norris Design and Greg Mazu with Single Track Trails have been meeting with the public as well as a steering committee consisting of local cycling enthusiasts, students and representatives from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to come up with a conceptual design.
The consultants have started to examine potential locations for the bike park, hoping to find land that is already owned by the city that also features the right soil types and potential topography needed for the more gravity-centric park features.
The consultants are also considering proximity to town as well as infrastructure and utility availability as they consider potential sites. At least 13 sites around the city have been considered so far.
“We need to explore more in-depth for those locations,” Guerin said. “Really very few needed to be thrown out because of some kind of factor, like environmental factors like the soil. Certainly, they all have different positives and negatives, but I think our goal is to start exploring those in-depth.”
While no location has been named an official front runner, the presentation to council featured two potential spots: one where the Turner Tract stormwater detention pond is currently being constructed between the Laramie Community Recreation Center and Laramie High School as well as a second location in LaBonte Park near the skatepark.
A big supporter of the project overall, Councilman Bryan Shuster said he thinks the Turner Tract detention pond location is going to be his number one choice.
“I think the detention cell idea is fantastic,” he added. “I realize maybe added up over the whole year, it might be out one month, but that still allows 11 months of riding. My idea is right next to the rec center but using that detention cell.”
Also “very supportive of this moving forward,” Councilwoman Jayne Pearce said she thought it was “really important that it’s family-friendly.”
“I kind of like the idea of potentially having two in the community,” she added. “I certainly would like to explore more west to see if we have anything — some planning for the other parts of town, I think, would be great.”
Guerin said based on public feedback, the city would likely want to have one park with all the amenities rather than spreading out the different features in multiple, separate parks.
Regardless of the potential location, community interest in the bike park has been strong; the consultants have hosted two public meetings so far to gain feedback about where the park could be and what features it should include, and Guerin said the conference room at the recreation center was standing room only for the first meeting.
The consultants saw nearly 200 people attend the public meetings and, when including responses to the survey they issued, there were well over 2,000 responses.
“We do a lot of public outreach for a lot of parks in the country, and that’s a huge response for a project like this,” Savage said. “That was really great. A lot of the respondents, 95-plus%, were city of Laramie residents. I believe of that number, mountain bikers are 90%. So, we did get at those folks we really wanted to hear from.”
Gathering all the public feedback, the consultants said the most desirable features for the park from the public’s perspective include offering a variety of ways to practice skills as well as an ability for families to enjoy the park even in windy or winter weather.
President of Laramie BikeNet and coach of the high school mountain biking team Cynthia Dywan said during public comment it was great to see the council so excited about the project.
“We have bike races up in the forest service where people from Colorado are coming up,” she said, “a lot of times they just drive back to Cheyenne or Fort Collins because that’s the way they’re headed. But when we have amenities like this that will bring them into town, that’s really exciting for me. … To be able to bring that and to have new ways to bring revenue into the city is really exciting.”
Pearce also noted the potential economic benefits from having a bike park within city limits cannot be overlooked and should be considered during the planning process.
Beyond picking a location, the next steps also include finding potential funding sources. The different bike park features the public wants comes with a price tag of about $190,000; a pump track, which challenges users to go up and down rolling hills without pedaling, comes with a $30,000 price tag and another popular feature, dirt jumps, also has a $30,000 price tag.
Potential locations can mitigate or expand those costs depending on how much dirt or other materials will need to be moved to the location.
The bike park can use some funding from the recently passed specific purpose tax for whatever phase one of the project looks like, Guerin said.
She added the different features can be implemented in phases to avoid a large initial price tag, and the city is also pursuing finding potential public-private partnerships or grants to help fund the project.
Members of the public also expressed an interest in volunteering to help build or maintain the park, similar to BikeNet’s efforts to build and maintain the schoolyard trails east of Laramie.
The consultants said once the bike park construction is complete, yearly maintenance costs would be about 10% of the construction costs.
“The great news is, the community has helped us prioritize really what this needs to looks like and really given us the parameters to do that pretty effectively,” Guerin said. “I think over next year, we’ll start to see some movement in that direction.”