Central Valley

Bumpy path to perfect BMX park in Turlock

TURLOCK — Riders at the new BMX park found their landing a little too soft.

The park, behind Walnut Education Center off West Christoffersen Parkway, opened last month. City officials are planning a grand opening later this year but wanted to get the park open in time for students' winter break.

Although the BMX course of hills and dips draws riders just about anytime it's open, some say they're disappointed in the result.

"It was sick (in this case, sick is a good thing) the way they designed it," said T.J. Holley, 15. "It had a lot of gaps and stuff. But the city said it was too dangerous."

Dan Madden, the city's director of municipal services, said the changes were necessary.

"It wouldn't be in our best interest to put in a course so difficult that only a small number of people can use it without any serious risk of injury," he said.

Matt Nascimento, who owns Bikeworks on North Center Street and helped design the project, said he was frustrated.

"It was pretty much a dream come true for a while," he said. "(But) it's not anywhere close to the design that they asked me to submit in the beginning."

Nascimento, 24, closed his shop for three Saturdays to work on the park. The problem, he said, came when city officials decided it was too risky to have jumps meant only for more advanced riders.

"Originally, there was three main skill sets of jumps there," he said. "One was meant for little guys, then the second set was more intermediate. Then there was a set for more advanced (skills) that did have chasms through the middle."

Dominic Rufo, who brought the idea to the city as a middle school student, agreed. He said he appreciated the work volunteers and the city put into creating the park, but that what they ended up with is a very basic course that won't draw advanced riders.

"I don't want to settle for the bare minimum," he said.

Madden said the course is a work in progress and rider considerations will be taken into account as changes are made.

"We're continuing to have dialogue with this minority group of people," he said. "As we said from the outset, often throughout the year, we'll go in and change it around. We're still going to do that."

Madden pointed out that the park is getting used by a variety of riders, and that was the point of creating it.

"I've seen everyone from teens to little kids on really small bikes out there," he said.

Nascimento said the changes the city made, filling in some of the chasms, actually encourages more dangerous use.

"The kids jump backward," he said. "And little kids that shouldn't be on big jumps can go on top of them."

DJ Fransen, who works for the city and runs a local Web site, hasn't given up hope the city and the BMXers can come together. Fransen helped coordinate fund-raising for the park.

"This all started with a kid bringing in a dream idea," he said Monday, watching about 20 bicyclists of various ages ride in the park.

"We still can end up with a successful project. I don't look at this as anything but a little setback."

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or 578-2343.

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