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Department peddles new kind of bike park

by Anna Watson | November 26, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
A homemade sign sits in front of the public skatepark at Washington Park in Jefferson City while people pick up trash and debris from the area. (Anakin Bush/News Tribune photo - June 2022)

The Parks and Recreation Department director envisions a bike park that will unite families.

Director Todd Spalding remarked people in Jefferson City are heavily into biking, especially when it comes to riding on the Greenways or the Katy Trail. And plans are in the works for designing a new kind of park to accommodate an off-roading experience where bikers might be able to enjoy trails, a skills course, pump tracks or jumps.

Locating it in Washington Park makes the experience reachable through non-motorized means, Spalding said.

"We wanted something people could easily get to," he said. "Bike to this bike park from the Greenway."

So far, plans are more visionary than they are etched on paper, but Spalding said the department eyes growing bike trends nationally for inspiration.

"We are seeing a real national trend in individual or outdoor sports like this, and we thought it was the right time to do that," he said.

The City Council agreed Monday on allowing Parks and Rec to seek services from the American Ramp Company to build the new arena. The council approved allowing the department to seek services through a cooperative purchasing program with a company called Sourcewell.

A cooperative purchasing agreement is different from a typical bid process. Spalding said the American Ramp Company, based out of Joplin, specializes in this specific build. The project could cost anywhere from $500,000 to $1.2 million, he said.

While the designs are in its early stages, the department said it hopes to build a small skills course beside a larger bike trail.

A smaller, man-made surface, with a flat section that's often called pump tracks, allows people to learn before propelling on to natural, woodsy trails offered at the park, Spalding said. He said building the trails tend to involve excavating the land.

Washington Park was chosen as the location because the department has high hopes for improving the parks in its grander master plan, and its relative center proximity makes for great bikeability.

Spalding said: "Washington Park is at the top of our list to make improvements at."

The bike park is aimed to be located across from the tennis courts.

The skate park in Washington Park would also see improvements within the scope of this project. About $200,000 has been set aside for constructing improvements to the current course.

For input on what equipment in the skate park needs improvement, Spalding said he sought feedback from skaters, often dropping by the park at random points of the day to talk to whoever was there. Some had reached out to him to voice some safety concerns.

"It came out of talking with some skaters and looking at some of the safety concerns, some pieces did have cracks, and we needed to fix those, too," Spalding said.

At the Monday meeting, Councilman Scott Spencer asked about the range of proposed totals for the bike park.

"Why is there such a variance in the range of the requests from $500,000 to $1.2 million?"

"I think that is just the range of what it could be," Spalding said. "We have currently budgeted around $200,000 in skate park improvements, and $500,000 plus for the skate park."

Spalding then added the design is the main factor in the budget and the "wild card." It could cost anywhere in the range, but once the design is established, he said, a contract with the American Ramp Company would be submitted to the Parks Commission for approval.

"Do you currently have $1.2 million in the budget?" Spencer asked.

"We do," Spalding replied. "We currently have a lot of projects, so we were thinking that if we can put off some other projects, which aren't ready, we could spend a little more than the $500,000 we have set aside for the bike park."

Spencer asked why Parks and Rec didn't offer more background information on the project within the city documents provided before every City Council meeting. He said the department failed to provide a summary of the request, background information or a financial impact assessment.

Shiela Pearre, the finance director, then offered specifics to what was presented to council Monday evening for approval.

"This is to approve Sourcewell as the contact on a cooperative procurement contract; this is not to approve a bid or anything at this point," she said.

City Attorney Ryan Moehlman later explained a cooperative procurement contract as a program enabling another company to execute bidding procedures, and it simply replaces the city's bidding process. Moehlman said it's a process that usually allows some money and time to be saved.

A contract with the American Ramp Company will still be negotiated and submitted for approval.

Spalding said the project is in its early stages and whenever the documents become available, he "would certainly provide anything."

"I look forward to that information, and I think it's a vital asset," Spencer said.

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